TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Rossi: Young Russian Tarasenko eyes NHL breakout, Olympics and maybe besting an idol

Penguins/NHL Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.
NHLI via Getty Images
The Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko waits for a face-off against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 25, 2013, at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Rob Rossi podcasts

  • Loading...

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 10:51 p.m.
 

ST. LOUIS — Vladimir Tarasenko spent a lot of time Saturday trying not to think.

The thoughts he could have — a potential 30-goal season, a possible spot on host country Russia's Olympic roster, outproducing Evgeni Malkin — well, those seemed “too big,” he said.

Still, he was in a position to have those thoughts.

Tarasenko, a 21-year-old right winger, had scored five goals in the St. Louis Blues' opening 14 games. That was a pace for 29 goals.

He spent the NHL lockout playing with SKA St. Petersburg of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, scoring 14 goals in 31 games. He impressed then-teammate Ilya Kovalchuk, the front-runner to captain Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Tarasenko also had marked more than Malkin in fewer games.

That part — Malkin having only three goals in the Penguins' initial 16 contests — forced Tarasenko to double-check a stats sheet Saturday morning.

“That will not last,” Tarasenko said. “He's one of the best players in the world.”

Tarasenko said he barely knows Malkin. He knows of Malkin, though.

“For (Russian) players, Malkin is at the top,” Tarasenko said. “In Russia, hockey is our big sport. They love ‘Kovy' (Kovalchuk) and Alex (Ovechkin) and Malkin. Those are our big heroes because of what they do for how people think of Russian hockey.

“I have never met a Russian player that does not love Malkin.”

Tarasenko does not know Ovechkin well, either.

He is getting to know the North American game — at about the exact point most with the St. Louis organization expected. The 16th pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, his fellow first-round draftees included Taylor Hall (1st, Edmonton), Tyler Seguin (2nd, Boston) and Beau Bennett (20th, Penguins).

Tarasenko scored eight goals as a rookie last season, and his game has sharpened under the guidance of longtime NHL coach Ken Hitchcock, who routinely rolls four lines with the Blues. Hitchcock had played Tarasenko at least 14 minutes and 20 shifts in 10 games.

The early results had Tarasenko third among goal scorers for the Blues — and current Russian-born NHL players.

That information might have served as an icebreaker with Malkin on Saturday afternoon. Tarasenko also could have asked one of his idols about pre-Olympics pressure.

No meeting was scheduled, however. Both players wanted to prepare for the game.

“We worked together at (Russia's) Olympic camp. He seemed like (an) unbelievable guy, but I do not know him,” Tarasenko said.

“You could tell him I said hi, (but) he probably does not know me.”

Tarasenko should know this: Malkin said he knew one thing about Tarasenko, and it was that as of Saturday morning, he needed a big game to catch the Russian youngster in the goals department.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Penguins

  1. Penguins trade Sutter to Canucks, sign free agent center Fehr
  2. Sutter: Staal effect felt on 3rd line
  3. New Pens winger Fehr ready for defense-first role
  4. Penguins to appear on national TV 18 times in 2015-16
  5. Penguins bring in analytics expert from Carnegie Mellon
  6. Pens assistant GM Fitzgerald leaves for Devils
  7. ‘Warning track’ makes Pittsburgh debut at Southpointe’s Iceoplex
  8. At Carnegie Mellon University, hockey analytics enjoys rebirth
  9. Starkey: Rutherford hits jackpot with Kessel