Game Time Prospect Sunday, May 20, 2012

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By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department


Another short and sweet week, as there's just not much to talk about right now in the World O' Prospects. After the Memorial Cup, there will be heavy emphasis on the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.


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PROSPECT PROMOTIONS / DEMOTIONS:

None to report this week.

PROSPECT TRADES:

None to report this week.

PLAYERS ON SICK CALL:

None to report this week.

PLAYERS RETURNED TO DUTY:

None to report this week.

PLAYERS ON SUSPENSION:

None to report this week.


PROSPECT NEWS AND NOTES:

ITEM: MEMORIAL CUP UPDATE.

Three Blues prospects have made it to the Memorial Cup tournament with their teams, all from the QMJHL.

The Saint John Sea Dogs have repeated as QMJHL champions, and prospects Ryan Tesink and Stephen Macaulay will have another opportunity this season to do their thing in the annual tournament to determine major junior hockey supremacy.

Tesink drew first blood among Blues prospects in last night's 5-3 loss to OHL champion London; the 2011 draftee (162nd overall) scored a power-play goal at 12:01 of the third period to bring the Dogs back to a one-goal deficit, but the powerhouse Knights scored on their own power play with less than a minute to play in order to seal the win.

Veilleux action

Tesink finished with an even plus/minus, while Macaulay was a minus-1 and won just three of the 11 faceoffs he took.

The other Blues prospect in the Memorial Cup is 2011 draftee (102nd overall) Yannick Veilleux of the host team, the Shawinigan Cataractes. Veilleux scored at just about a point-per-game clip in the regular season (27-31-58 in 59 GP) and playoffs (5-6-11 in 11 GP), but was held off the scoresheet and was a minus-2 in les Cataractes 4-3 loss to WHL champion Edmonton on Friday night.

Shawinigan faces London today at 6:00 PM CST, while Saint John takes on Edmonton on Monday, again at 6:00 PM CST. Scoresheets, highlights, webcasts, etc. can all be accessed by clicking HERE, on the Master Card Memorial Cup 2012 official website.

...

ITEM: TARASENKO WATCH.

As was reported here and at The Post Dispatch online, along with several other places, during the last week, the powers-that-be in charge of the Russian entry in the World Championships have elected to deny Blues' draftee Vladimir Tarasenko a spot on this year's WC squad.

The "official" reason given for T-90's exclusion from the Russian squad -- who will face Slovakia today for the 2012 World Championship -- can be discerned from this tweet by Alexander Zaytsev (a Russian who covers the KHL, NHL, and Team Russia at the RussianHockeyFans.com website), retweeted by Russian hockey journalist Alessandro Seren Rosso (Twitter @AlexSerenRosso.)

Alexander Zaytsev ‏@AlexandrZaytsev ... Bilyaletdinov: "Tarasenko is overweight. We tried to help him lose weight but to no avail. He is not ready physically." #STL ... Retweeted by AlessandroSerenRosso

"Bilyaletdinov" refers to the head coach of Team Russia for this year's entry (and, not coincidentally, for Russia's 2014 Sochi Olympics entry as well), one Zinetula "Bill" Bilyaletdinov. A former player for Moscow Spartak in the old USSR, Bilyaletdinov served as an assistant coach for the old Winnipeg Jets from 1994 to 1996, and moved with the team to Phoenix for one season in 1996-97.

T-90 playoff beard

There has been a great deal of speculation that Tarasenko's exclusion from Team Russia was due more to politics than to any perceived weight issue. To begin with, Tarasenko played deep into the KHL playoffs with SKA St. Petersburg, where he was among the league's playoff scoring leaders with 10 goals and 16 points in 15 playoff games. That impressive performance followed up a solid regular season split between SKA and Tarasenko's hometown club of Sibir Novosibirsk.

In 39 games with Sibir, Tarasenko put up an 18-20-38 scoring line (plus-12, 15 PM, 7 PPG, 4 GWG). After his trade to St. Petersburg in mid-January, Tarasenko added five goals and nine points in 15 games, playing mostly on the fourth line with a reduction of average minutes played. With Sibir, Tarasenko played an average of 18:48 per game; with a stronger St. Petersburg squad made up of more veteran players, the 20-year-old saw his ice time reduced to just 11:22 per game.

Tarasenko still managed to finish the regular season with an impressive 23-24-47 scoring line (plus-18, 15 PM, 7 PPG, 6 GWG) in 54 total games. In the playoffs, he led SKA in goals and overall scoring despite getting just 12:16 of ice time per game.

Those are not numbers put up by a player that is out of shape, and immediately after SKA's elimination from the KHL playoffs on Apr. 3, Tarasenko reported to Team Russia's camp. So, if the "official" version of the story is to be believed, in just over four weeks' time, a 20-year-old player who had just come off of a solid regular season and an arguably dominant post-season was unable to get into good-enough shape to satisfy his coach.

(NOTE: The opinion expressed in the following is my own, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of "St. Louis Game Time" or the management thereof.)

Male bovine excrement.

Tarasenko is being punished by a coach with an agenda, because he (Tarasenko) has expressed repeatedly his desire to play in the NHL, and because he is on the brink of making that jump as we speak. Bilyaletdinov and the powers-that-be in Russia are trying to pressure Tarasenko and other young Russian stars to stay in Russia in order to make the KHL more competitive vis a vis the NHL.

To Tarasenko's credit, he has not publicly complained of the less-than-first-class treatment of his situation by Bilyaletdinov, and his only public statement has been that he will make his decision after the World Championships so as not to overshadow his countrymen in the pursuit of the gold medal.

I'm not Vladimir Tarasenko, but if I was, the decision would have already been made for me.

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