St. Louis Blues right winger Vladimir Tarasenko started his NHL career off on the right skate in a 6-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings during the 2012-13 opening night.
The highly touted rook logged 13:52 ice time while posting two goals, plus-one and five shots on goal.
Fantasy hockey players will be quick to target Tarasenko, as they should be. He's currently owned in just 21 percent of leagues polled, but expect that number to more than double by Monday. While it's easy to be reactive purely on the two-point night, it's the little things that made Tarasenko stand out during the game.
1. He played close to a third of the game and wasn't that far off David Backes (17:38), Andy McDonald (16:47), T.J. Oshie (17:40), David Perron (16:28) and Chris Stewart (15:58), showing the team isn't afraid to rely on him in many situations. Look for his playing time to increase the more he shows the team he needs to be on the ice.
2. On his first goal, which came on a breakaway against Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, Tarasenko showed strong puck-handling skills and speed on the way to his goal. Many young players will slow their game down to assess the situation rather than just react, and Tarasenko did nothing of the like as he smoothly skated in and put the puck past Howard. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has said Tarasenko just doesn't miss the net. "The puck's on the net, it comes fast, it's on his stick (and) gone. He can put pucks through people, he's a good offensive player," Hitchcock said of his rookie winger.
3. Tarasenko also saw work on the power play, which is where he scored his second goal. The team clearly values his offensive skills and feels he'll be an asset on the man advantage. Continued opportunities and a hot stick should provide plenty of fantasy hockey points in the coming season. The Blues, by the way, dominated on the power play. They scored on four of their five opportunities, but Detroit often looked overwhelmed while being short-handed.
4. Speaking of hot stick: He also kept his momentum from the KHL, where he scored 14 goals and 31 points in 31 games this season playing with St. Petersburg SKA.
5. Finally, this was a different St. Louis team than I'm accustomed to seeing. They were aggressive offensively, quick to move the puck up ice and put it on the net, finishing with 36 shots during the game.
Stewart also found the net twice, which is a good sign to start the season. Stewart, a former 28-goal scorer, looks like he's regained some confidence. Owned in just 45 percent of leagues polled, he, too, should be given a serious look if available on your league's waiver wire.
The play of Tarasenko and Stewart add additional dimensions to a team that is now showing offensive firepower they traditionally have not been able to rely on.
Fantasy hockey players need to take note and quickly.
About Ryan R. Bonini
Founding KFFL in 1996, Bonini now serves as VP of Fantasy Sports Solutions for USA
TODAY SPORTS, KFFL's parent company. Bonini was named 2009 Fantasy Football Writer
of the Year by the FSWA,
received honors with the Best Fantasy Football Series in '10 and was named into their Hall of Fame in '13.
His work has been found in USA TODAY Sports, Yahoo!
Sports, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NFL.com, and many others. He has also been featured
on numerous radio programs around the country. Bonini is a member of the PFWA,
FSWA and FSTA.
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