Many people had high hopes that St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko would take that next step this year and become that franchise player that everyone has been waiting for. However, despite those hopes, Tarasenko had a down year. After averaging close to 39 goals per season over the past three years, the 26-year old’s goal totals dropped to 33, while his point totals went from 75 to 66.
The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford (subscription required) writes that one possibility of Tarasenko’s struggles is the fact that the team traded away his three closest friends in Jori Lehtera, Ryan Reaves and Kevin Shattenkirk. Not having them around did have an effect on how Tarasenko handled himself around the team and the scribe said that both Shattenkirk and Reaves had a way of keeping the star level-headed and in check.
While the team would have little interest in bringing back Lehtera and unrealistic to bring back Shattenkirk, the team may consider bringing back Reaves, who will be an unrestricted free agent. The question there is whether the Blues could find playing time for the power forward. Reaves struggled with the Pittsburgh Penguins and has not played for the Vegas Golden Knights in the playoffs yet, which suggests he may not be the same player he once was. Regardless, Rutherford adds that if they do attempt to bring back Reaves, that would spell the end of Chris Thorburn, who essentially plays that same role.
- Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat is playing for Team Canada in the World Championships with one thing in mind. The Vancouver Sun’s Ben Kuzma writes that the team captain was told by the team during exit interviews at the end of the season to keep working on his two-way game. Horvat, who had a career-high in goals scored with 22, has emphasized working on his skating while in Denmark. “For me, it’s to work on my skating — you can never be too fast,” said Horvat, who also said working on his defensive awareness is another skill he’s been working on.
- The Minnesota Wild have had no luck changing the mind of prospect Kirill Kaprisov, according to The Athletic’s Craig Custance (subscription required). The 21-year-old Russian prospect has been playing alongside long-time Detroit Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk at the IIHF World Championships and the two have been a great combination. However, despite the youngster’s success and the Wild’s desperate need for a young scorer, his agent Dan Milstein reiterated that he will not come to the U.S. until his contract in the KHL expires. He still has two years remaining with CSKA Moscow. “Kirill has two years left on his KHL contract which he intends to fulfill. Long-term plan is to play in the NHL,” Milstein wrote via e-mail.