Columbus Blue Jackets top goalie prospect Daniil Tarasov, a 2017 third-round pick, is heading for AHL Cleveland.
The netminder, who was on loan playing for KHL Salavat Yulaev Ufa, was eliminated on Tuesday by Ak Bars and fellow Blue Jackets prospect Dmitri Voronkov.
#CBJ draft pick Dmitri Voronkov scores today as Ak Bars swept Salavat Yulaev in the Green Derby to reach the KHL semis. With Ufa out, Jarmo Kekalainen previously said goalie prospect Daniil Tarasov would be Cleveland bound. https://t.co/cRThl3hxtv— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) March 23, 2021
In a backup role this season, the 21-year old put up exceptional numbers, going 11-3-2 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.07 GAA during the regular season before stopping all 12 shots he faced (in relief) during the playoffs. In February, he was named the KHL's top rookie of the week after posting a 2-0-0 record while giving up just two goals against.
Now that his season is over, the expectation is the prized prospect will head to AHL Cleveland, potentially playing games immediately barring (COVID-19 quarantine restrictions).
In trading Veini Vehviläinen to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for depth defenseman Mikko Lehtonen, the Blue Jackets effectively cleared a path for Tarasov to have an immediate role in North America, where he'll share the net with 24-year old Matiss Kivlenieks.
Expectations for the 6'5 netminder are already sky-high. From The Athletic's Aaron Portzline's Sunday Gathering:
“When he’s playing well, he’s playing really big,” said one Eastern Conference coach who said he has yet to see Tarasov live. But he’s seen plenty of video.
“There’s not a lot of net to look at for shooters because his positioning is really sound, really textbook. He’s had good coaching, you can tell. He can move and make the acrobatic save, but he’s one of those goalies that makes it look easy.”
One coach brushed aside the lofty comparisons of Tarasov to Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, also a towering Russian. “Similar size and skill,” he said. “But he doesn’t have the same natural explosiveness (as Vasilevskiy).”
Another compared him to Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.
Barring an upcoming trade, the Blue Jackets will likely expose Kivlenieks in the Seattle Expansion Draft, where they will protect Joonas Korpisalo. Tarasov, and Elvis Merzlikins, are exempt.
Tarasov has one more season on his contract before he becomes an RFA.