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Tarasenko announces presence

By Thomas J. Harrigan, Fantasy Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Last season, the St. Louis Blues grinded out wins with excellent defense, giving up both the least goals and shots on goal in the NHL, but they ranked 21st in goals scored.

The addition of 21-year-old forward Vladimir Tarasenko to the team's power play could change that dynamic just a bit.

OK, defense is still the team's focal point, that much is clear following a 6-0 shellacking of Detroit in the season opener on Saturday, but Tarasenko's emergence should bring the offense up to par.

Tarasenko scored two goals on five shots in 14 minutes of ice time in his NHL debut Saturday, one of which came at even strength.

The young winger played on St. Louis' top power play line with Chris Stewart, Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen (used 53.8 percent of the time Saturday, according to leftwinglock.com) and helped the Blues score four power play goals in the game.

Tarasenko, who just turned 21 on Dec. 13, has dominated the KHL in his native Russia over the last two seasons after being selected 16th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft. In 2011-12, he scored 23 goals with 47 points in 54 games.

He played 31 games for SKA St. Petersburg during the lockout and had 31 points, including 14 goals on 95 shots.

Last season, St. Louis used T.J. Oshie, David Backes and David Perron with no extra forward as its No. 1 power play line and had a below-average power play percentage of 16.7. Saturday's 80 percent success rate (4-of-5), with three of their four power play goals coming from Tarasenko and Stewart, should prompt the Blues to keep Tarasenko's group in action on the power play.

Tarasenko will likely be flying off the shelves quickly in fantasy leagues after his auspicious debut, and owners should absolutely take a shot on a kid with this much upside while there's still time.

The winger landed on a hard-nosed squad -- the Blues ranked fourth in the NHL in penalty minutes last season -- but one that could really use his scoring ability as a complement to that toughness.

St. Louis only had two 20-goal scorers last season with a high of 24 from Backes. Only one other 2011-12 playoff team had fewer than three 20-goal scorers (Nashville). Even in a shortened campaign, Tarasenko might hit that mark this season.

01/20 18:30:28 ET


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