Vladimir Tarasenko might be the best Russian you've never heard of.
Vladimir Tarasenko isn’t a household name -– yet. And it still might be a while.
What? You haven’t heard of him either?
With the 2010 NHL draft just around the corner, other Russian names might stick out more. The drama surrounding the former potential number one selection in Kirill Kabanov, or Barrie Colts standout Alexander Burmistrov, have thrust other Russian names into blogs and other news sources throughout North America.
Ironically, however, the first Russian to go in this year’s draft will most likely be someone who has never played in North America, and whom many people have never heard of. That’s because Vladimir Tarasenko has been quietly tearing up the ice half a world away in Russia. During his second year in the Kontinental Hockey League, he scored 13 goals and 11 assists in 42 games on a struggling team — HC Sibir Novosibirsk. Not bad for a 17-year-old playing in a league filled with seasoned veterans.
A young man in the KHL, Tarasenko has chosen to stay close to home. Very close. In fact, his father is also his coach in Novosibirsk. Recognizing that his son needed the support and, presumably, the supervision of his family, Tarasenko’s father advised him to stay in Russia, play with men and have the support structure he needed to develop. I’m sure many of you parents out there can relate. The hesitation to send your child relatively unsupervised halfway across the world to a foreign country where he has no relatives seems like a rational, and even preferable decision.
Has this hindered his chances of a high draft spot? To both Tarasenko and his father, such talk of draft placement is irrelevant. What is most important is the young Tarasenko’s development as a player and a professional, not what number he is selected. After all, he is still under contract with Sibir next year and won’t be looking to move to the NHL any time soon. The irony is, despite this casual approach to the draft, it just may manifest itself in Tarasenko being the first Russian to be chosen. He’s had both a great year in Sibr and at the World Junior Cup.
Vladimir Tarasenko impressed scouts at the WJC this year.
Ultimately, the big question in scouts’ minds will be what most of us wonder: Will he take the big step to the NHL once his contract with Sibir is up or remain in the KHL like many kids these days? The fact that he hasn’t exactly been beating down the door to play in North America may be a deterrent to many teams.
However, we have to remember that Vladimir’s father is a former Soviet professional hockey player who didn’t have the chance to play in the NHL. He has coached Vladimir for a long time and knows that the best league in the world is the ultimate achievement in any hockey player’s career. My thought is that he is right on track to produce a very successful NHL product and while it may be a year or two down the road, Vladimir Tarasenko will soon be one of those Russians that NHL teams will hate facing due to his propensity for exploding out of nowhere and finding the back of the net. Given his talent and style of play, he is sure to be a fan favorite wherever he lands.
Take a chance on this Russian? You bet! The NHL will be a more exciting place the day Tarasenko joins the league.
Photos: Vladimir Tarasenko by Elena Rusko (rusko.fishup.ru), Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.