St. Louis Blues: Top Prospect Proving to Be NHL-Ready

Steven ConklinCorrespondent IIDecember 18, 2011

This season has been a fantastic one for the St. Louis Blues

After a poor start, head coach Davis Payne was replaced by the seasoned Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock has turned the team around with his defensive-minded strategy and the Blues are currently tied for fifth place in the Western Conference. 

Forward T.J. Oshie looks like he is finally coming into his own and is heading the offensive attack of St. Louis. Oshie has five points in his last five games going into Sunday night's matchup against Columbus.

Oshie and Alex Steen's 21 points are good for the team lead. However, it is not just Oshie's emergence that has Blues fans excited.

Young D-men Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk are playing lights-out hockey and a complete "200-foot game," which is what coach Hitchcock has stressed the importance of from day one.  

With these young guns playing well, the Blues are enjoying success and could certainly continue to do so for years to come.

Enter Vladimir Tarasenko.

The St. Louis roster is full of young players who have the potential to light the lamp on a consistent basis. Tarasenko, arguably the Blues top prospect, could be bringing the same by next October. 

Drafted 16th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the 20-year-old Russian is looking like a superstar in Russia's KHL for Novosibirsk Siber. 

In 31 games this year, the forward has 16 goals and 31 total points. On two occasions, Tarasenko had a hat trick night. 

Known for having a quick snap-shot and great speed, the young skater is also renowned for his leadership and team-oriented qualities. Last January, he captained Team Russia to the gold medal in the World Junior Championships. 

With the assumed addition of Tarasenko next season, the Blues would have an even better nucleus of young talent on the forecheck.

However, St. Louis will need to re-sign Oshie, Chris Stewart and David Perron to allow the core to continue to grow and improve. 

Regardless of what happens, Tarasenko should be dawning a Blues sweater come October 2012. On a team with no legitimate superstar, the opportunity could be huge for the organization's top prospect. 

Steven Conklin is a contributing writer for the Bleacher Report and a student at the University of Central Missouri. He joined B/R in October 2011 and will be a B/R intern starting in January. Any comments, questions or suggestions are more than welcome.

Other Articles by Steven:

Tkachuk Inducted

How Realignment Affects Blues