Vladimir Tarasenko, RW HC Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL)
Born: December 13, 1991 in Yaroslavl, Russia
Scouting report: Offensively distinguished winger is arguably the best Russian talent in the draft, but he may fall farther than lesser-skilled players from the same country because of signability risk.
Strengths: Quick, elusive skater who can move well in four directions. May have the best hands of any forward in the draft; magical puckhandler and has that all-important "nose for the net" which allows him to put away scoring chances at will. Can score goals any way you want: on the breakaway with a flourish, off the rush with a top-shelf snapper from just inside the circle, or a garbage rebound pounced on in close right in front of the net. Skates hard and hustles; puts forth an honest effort. Not afraid to go into traffic or to sacrifice the body for the good of the team. Good passer and playmaker; puck distribution is solid and finds open teammates with slick, tape-to-tape passes. Instincts are all top-notch; creative and determined. Honed his skills competing against men as a teen this year; could be poised for a big breakout next season.
Weaknesses: Lacks explosion and rapid acceleration although he's fast/quick enough once he gets up to speed. Tougher to read in terms of career goals and commitment because he's in Russia and lines of communication are not as open with Tarasenko as they are with Alexander Burmistrov, Stanislav Galiev and other Russians playing in North America. Needs to get stronger and continue the physical maturation process.
Style compares to: Marian Hossa
Draft prediction: 10th overall to the New York Rangers. Glen Sather and company have shown a willingness to draft Russians before, and they could do it again with Tarasenko, who is talented enough to be a top-five pick in this impressive class. If Tarasenko ends up in the top-10, this is good news for Boston fans, because it means that someone like Austin Watson could very well be on the board at 15 (assuming the B's don't use that as part of a deal to move up or down). This kid is precisely the kind of player who can help the Rangers: a potential 40-goal guy with a good, solid personality and a willingness to expend a little elbow grease out there, which is a departure from some other skilled, but enigmatic (read: inconsistent, lazy) Russians who have confounded teams around the NHL over the past few years. Other options for the Rangers at 10 are: Burmistrov, Ryan Johansen, Derek Forbort or the injured Brett Connolly, who would also clearly address that scoring need for Broadway so long as his hips get a clean enough bill of health.
Projection: Potential 1st-line winger and 40+ goal stud for any NHL team. Has the cred/upside to be an All-Star and high profile player if he ever comes over and fulfills the lofty expectations. Probably won't bust if he comes over because of his high skill level and work ethic. However, getting him to come over when the bidding for his services surely will be high is sure to be the conundrum facing any team thinking of rolling the dice. That said, rumors are that Tarasenko did a nice job at the NHL draft combine of dispelling some fears about his intentions to stay home and appears to have perhaps helped himself to land inside the top-10 and prevent a more precipitous free-fall at the draft. Scouts love his game, so the real factor in where he goes is going to come down to which GM is willing to put his job on the line by expending the high pick on a player who could be everything hoped for and more.
Background: Excellent bloodlines: son of former Russian winger/elite league scoring champion (60 points in 46 games in 96-97) and Olympian (1994 Lillehammer games) Andrei Tarasenko. Scored 13 goals, 24 points in the KHL as 17-18 year-old this season; the best is yet to come for this player. Does not speak English. Won a silver medal for Team Russia at 2009 World Under-18 Championship tourney (8 goals, 15 points in seven games). Scored four goals, five points in six games for Russia at 2010 WJC, including a highlight reel goal scored against Benjamin Conz and Switzerland in the semifinal loss. Under contract with HC Sibir for the 2010-11 season, so he won't be an immediate option for whichever team drafts him, even if he's ready for NHL competition.
"Vladimir is very effective around the net with his excellent overall skill level and vision. He is a strong, mobile skater with a quick shot. He is not only a sniper, but also a good passer and playmaker. There are no real weaknesses in his overall game and he will be one of the most interesting prospects at the draft."- Central Scouting scout Goran Stubb to NHL.com; December, 2009
"Every young player would like to play in the NHL and win the Stanley Cup. Every young player, I think, has a dream of winning the Stanley Cup, Olympic Games and World Championship."- Vladimir Tarasenko to NHL.com; December, 2009
"Yes, there was no team spirit. We couldn't work as a true team and I don't know who's to blame. But there are also other reasons. Team USA played together the whole year, they skated in some tournaments together. This might have had an impact over the tournament."- Vladimir Tarasenko commenting on Russia's lack of cohesion at the WJC; as translated by RussianHockeyFans.com from a transcript on the HC Sibir official website; February, 2010
"Yes, it is. But this is not the only reason. I think I should continue my career with Sibir also because of the human conditions. There are a lot of people that really helped me. First of all - my family."- Vladimir Tarasenko on whether his KHL contract for next season is valid; as translated by RussianHockeyFans.com from a transcript on the HC Sibir official website; February, 2010
"Scores more than Tiger Woods at an adult film festival."- Red Line Report, 2010 Draft Guide; June, 2010