Five months after shoulder surgery, St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko hopes to be ready for training camp.
“I’m pretty close,” Tarasenko told The Associated Press during the NHL’s annual media tour. Tarasenko has spent the off-season rehabbing from reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder, a process that he said “felt like six months.” The 24-year-old Russian is coming off a relatively disappointing season that saw him log 33 goals and 33 assists in 80 games, making it the first time since the 2013-14 season that he failed to break 70 points. He registered a mere 16 powerplay points last season as the Blues converted on just 15.4% of their powerplay opportunities, good for second-last in the league.
It’s baffling to see a team that features the likes of Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, and Alex Pietrangelo struggle so mightily with the man advantage, and it certainly was a focal point of the Blues’ off-season. The Blues signed free agent centre Tyler Bozak, who was an integral piece of the Maple Leafs’ 2nd-ranked powerplay last season, to a three-year $15 million contract on July 1st, and added a front-of-the-net presence in Patrick Maroon.
While we are still waiting to see exactly how their powerplay units fit together, the Blues projected lines for the start of training camp can be seen here. Assuming his shoulder is good to go, Tarasenko will begin the year on the wing of the newly acquired Ryan O’Reilly, according to Pete Jensen of NHL.com. Widely considered one of the best two-way forwards in hockey, O’Reilly should open up more opportunities for Tarasenko at 5v5, but he’ll be hard-pressed to get back to 70 plus points if the Blues’ 2017-18 powerplay struggles carryover into the upcoming season.