(UPDATED WITH INFO FROM GAME TIME PROSPECT DEPARTMENT)
The team pulled off the draft's first officially-recorded trade -- an earlier deal involving Vancouver and Florida was not registered until Florida selected WHL forward Quinton Howden with the 25th selection that they acquired from Vancouver -- and then reached across the Atlantic to select Vladimir "T-72" Tarasenko from HC Sibir Novosibirsk of the KHL (where his father Andrei is the head coach), making him the Blues' first-ever Russian first-round pick.
In order to be in a poisaition to draft Tarasenko, the Blues traded their 2009 first-round selection (17th overall) David Rundblad to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the 16th overall pick in this year's draft (LINK to article at TSN.ca). McKenzie ranked Tarasenko exactly where the Blues got him - 16th overall - in his final analysis of 2010 draft-eligible players (LINK to McKenzie's rankings at TSN.ca), and had this to say about the young Russian:
Russian forward Vladimir Tarasenko is a gifted goal-scorer and elite offensive talent and showed up to the NHL combine with one of the most physically mature and impressive physiques, a Russian tank of sorts (think Vladimir Krutov in really, really good shape), but he is a draft wild card because of the Russian Factor. Top 10 ability, where he ends up is anybody’s guess.
In 42 games for HC Sibir, Tarasenko put up a 13-11-24 scoring line (plus-9, 18 PM, 2 PPG, 3 GWG). Central Scouting had Tarasenko ranked second among Europeans for the 2010 draft; ISS ranked him 4th overall, and The Hockey News ranked him 14th overall.
(ORIGINAL POST FOLLOWS)
Didn't see this one coming. After the Blues drafted Jaden Schwartz at 14 overall, they traded to the Ottawa Senators David Rundblad, their first round pick last season, for the 16th overall selection. They picked Russian forward Vladimir Tarasenko. We're as surprised as you are.
Rundblad just signed his first pro contract two weeks ago. He's a defenseman in Sweden and wasn't expected to come to North America for at least one more year. Tarasenko, well Bob McKenzie was drooling on the air over the Russian's skill level.
Tarashenko was born in December 1991. From Wikipedia (all info assumed mostly correct):
Tarasenko's learned from his father, Andrei, who was a former Russian league scoring champion and Olympian. He made his professional debut with HC Sibir Novosibirsk in 2008–09, scoring seven goals and ten points in 38 games and was the runner up in voting for rookie of the year. He was released to play with the junior team at the 2009 IIHF World U18 Championships where he scored eight goals in seven games and was named a tournament all-star as Russia won a silver medal. Tarasenko returned to Sibir in 2009–10 as the sixth youngest player in the KHL. He again represented Russia, at the 2010 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, finishing third in team scoring with five points in six games.
International Scouting Services ranked Tarasenko as the top ranked European skater, and fourth overall, in its mid-term rankings for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Described by scouts as strong and mobile with no glaring weaknesses, Tarasenko has expressed in interest in playing in the National Hockey League, though his father, also his coach with Sibir, believes it is important that his son remains in Russia for the near future.
It will be interesting to hear from the front office on the workings of this trade. It appeared on stage that the Blues did have Tarashenko's name on the back of his sweater that he put on for the customary photo.
There's a long-running story in Canada about Russians and their desire to play in the NHL and for the Cup. The number of Russians in the league is down, there's competition from the KHL for players and then there's the fact that European players haven't exactly stuck around in Peoria indefinitely.
Even with the accolades for Tarashenko's skill level, all of the Euro/Russian red scare talk makes this a really intriguing and possibly risky pick. He could be a great contributor, but will it be in the KHL or the NHL?
From Jackets Cannon:
The 2nd highest ranked European player according to NHL Central Scouting, and fourth ranked prospect overall according to International Scouting Services, Tarasenko was first runner up for the KHL's 2009 rookie of the year award, playing with HC Sibir. The son of Andrei Tarasenko, former RSL scoring champion and Olympian, he's an attractive talent, but the question of how difficult it might be to get him out of Russia could make him a bit too much of a gamble for many teams.
One side note, Lou Korac who writes about the Blues says Tarasenko's North American agent is former Blues goaltender...Mike Liut. Interesting.
Again, expect more from the Prospect Department.