Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tarasenko a hit with teammates, fans

2010 first round pick hits ice for first time
wearing a Bluenote; large crowd at Ice Zone to see it

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When Vladimir Tarasenko hit the ice for the first time as a member of the Blues, the applause from the large summer crowd at St. Louis Mills was probably something the 20-year-old wasn't expecting.

But getting to see the Blues' 2010 first-round draft pick (16th overall; Jaden Schwartz was picked 14th also in 2010) live for the first time in person was too good to pass up.

"Half the jerseys, you didn't know what they said. They were all in Russian," joked Blues defenseman Ian Cole of the various Russian Tarasenko jerseys. "That's a good sign that they're here. ... They're really kind of sending a jolt of excitement, a little electric shock through the fan base.

"I think it's pretty cool, especially with this lockout that may or may not happen."

(Photo by Scott Neer/TSN-Photography)
Blues' 2010 first round pick Vladimir Tarasenko
took the ice Tuesday morning for the first time.
Even the teammates he will be playing with this season -- if there is a season -- were impressed as Tarasenko -- all 6-foot, 215-pounds of him -- took part in drills and conditioning as the Blues continue to work out with their informal skates preparing for what they hope is a 2012-13 season. Tarasenko totaled 100 points in 176 KHL games spanning four seasons.

"It's exciting to have (Tarasenko) here," said veteran forward Andy McDonald. "... Obviously he's got a big impact. He looked good out there. He's getting his feet wet and I think it's a big transition for him. For us, we just want to make it as easy as possible."

Tarasenko, who bolted Russia, the KHL and a more lucrative present-day contract for a dream of playing in the NHL and with the Blues, arrived in town Friday and is getting acclimated with North American life after signing a three-year entry-level deal in July. It's going to be up to his teammates to help him with the transition of living life in the U.S. initially; something they're ready to help him do.

"The most important thing is to make him feel comfortable off the ice, and especially on the ice," said center Patrik Berglund, who was in Tarasenko's shoes not too long ago when the Blues picked him 25th overall in 2006. "He's new. I know how it was. If you need help, I hope and he hopes that he asks for help so that we can help him. He looked really happy when he walked in. He didn't look shy or anything. He looks good."

Added veteran winger Jamie Langenbrunner, who's the oldest player on the Blues along with Scott Nichol at 37: "You want him to feel comfortable. I think we have a group of guys to do that. It's a good locker room when it comes to that. It's a good group of guys. It's very welcoming, not clicky at all so to speak. Those things take time. He's got to learn what we're all about and we've got to learn what he's all about. What buttons you can push, what buttons you can't.

"I think he looks like a guy that just wants to fit in and be a part of the group. If he comes with that attitude, he's going to be a great addition to this room."
Not only to the room, but according to Cole, on the ice as well.

"I think it can be huge, a guy that can put up 40-50 points maybe," Cole said of Tarasenko's potential initially for point production. "He's got that kind of skill-set. Having a guy on the ice like that, what's the downfall of that?

"I obviously don't know about him defensively or his two-way game. You can't really comment on that, but as far as his pure skill-set goes, you see him in the World Championships and you see him in the World Juniors, it's unbelievable. It's exciting to have that kind of skill level joining the rest of the guys with our top-end skill. It's going to be awesome."

(Photo by Scott Neer/TSN Photography)
Vladimir Tarasenko arrived in St. Louis on Friday and took part in his first
practice with the Blues Tuesday morning.

Tarasenko, who could go back to the KHL if there is a lockout rather than play for minimal dollars in Peoria, is projected to slot into the Blues' third line along with McDonald and Alex Steen.

So far, he's displayed a wicked wrister, he's a pinpoint passer and displays good speed.

"He's (got) good size. He's pretty stocky," McDonald said of Tarasenko. "Obviously that's a big factor in the NHL. You've got to be strong on your skates. But you've also got to be fast. He's fast, he's big. He's probably the complete package."

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