Vladimir Tarasenko has arrived.
The Blues’ forward landed at Lambert International Airport just before 6 p.m. on Thursday night and was on the ice with his teammates for Friday’s informal skate at the Ice Zone at the St. Louis Outlet Mall (formerly St. Louis Mills).
Tarasenko is the last of the Blues’ players to arrive in St. Louis in anticipation of the 2012-13 season, which is expected to begin later this month. The team has been holding informal skates daily at the Ice Zone in preparation for Training Camp.
“It’s a precamp skate, so it’s very different from what camp will be and what games will be. But from what I pick up, (Tarasenko) is very intelligent,” said Alex Steen. “He doesn’t seem shy to talk and that’s very important. He’s a very good hockey player.”
Fans turned out in droves for a chance to catch a glimpse of the Blues’ 2010 first-round draft pick (16th overall), who according to Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, will likely start camp on a line with Andy McDonald and Steen.
“I watched those guys. They skated out here as a group and the two or three times they skated together, they looked terrific,” Hitchcock told reporters back in October. “And both Alex and Andy had really embraced Vladi, and the whole team embraced Vladi…we really feel confident that it would be a good combination to start and go with.”
“I think he’s a pretty complete player,” added McDonald after skating with Tarasenko on Friday. “His awareness, his ability to get the puck, he’s got a great shot…just the awareness thing is a huge factor. Call it awareness or call it hockey sense, but your ability to read the play, where your teammates are around you, where the defenders are…players like that make it easy to play with.”
Tarasenko, who signed his first professional contract in June, was originally introduced to St. Louis in September. In 31 KHL games this season, the 21-year-old forward has 14 goals and 17 assists (31 points). He also boasts a plus/minus rating of plus-16.
He will wear No. 91.
“He doesn’t miss the net, the puck is on the net, he comes fast, the puck is on his stick and it’s gone…he’s a good offensive player," Hitchcock said. "The rest of the game, we’re going to teach him, and that’s going to be long-term, but if he can do the things offensively that we think he’s capable of, then he’s going to contribute to our hockey club and help us a lot.”
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