Daniil Tarasov 6-5, 196 pounds
Cleveland Monsters (AHL)
3rd round (#86 overall), 2017 NHL Draft
Playstyle comparisons: Ben Bishop, Carey Price
NHL upside: starting goaltender
Professional debut (North America): 2020
Daniil Tarasov checks in fourth on our list, as the top ranked goaltending prospect in the Columbus Blue Jackets system. With plenty of hype as a junior player in Russia, Tarasov was touted early on in his career as a potential high draft pick. Unfortunately, he missed his entire draft year due to leg surgery, which caused his draft stock to plummet. In fact, many were surprised to see anyone take a flyer on the young netminder at all, but the Blue Jackets and their scouts felt confident enough in Tarasov’s recovery, to spend a third round pick on a potential star.
Since being drafted, Tarasov spent two seasons in Russia, mostly playing in their lower tier leagues, before taking his talents to Assat (Liiga) for one season. His 89.9% save percentage in 2019-20 might not jump off the page at you, but Tarasov carried a starter’s workload in Finland. In a strong league, for the first time in his young professional career, he held his own. But due to COVID restrictions, Tarasov spend the 2020-21 season back in Russia, where he discovered some magic, posting a 92.5% save percentage and winning 11 of his 16 starts.
Daniil then made the jump to North America, playing 6 games for the Cleveland Monsters (AHL) at the end of their season, then another 11 games to start the 2021-22 season. In his brief 17 game AHL career, Tarasov has a 9-5-3 record with an 89.4% save percentage and 3.09 GAA. Again, not flashy numbers, but impressive enough considering how little he’s played over the last couple of seasons, and the young roster in Cleveland.
An athletic goaltender with a big frame, Tarasov covers a lot of the net whether he’s standing or in the butterfly position. He has good reflexes and reads the play well, and often relies on his positioning to make saves. I have noticed him struggling with his angles at times, standing just off center and leaving too much room on the far side of the net, but his reflexes and sheer size still allow him to stop the average shooter. If he can correct this issue and keep his net more, his numbers should improve immensely. He will also need to work on his rebound control if he is going to be an every day player in the NHL, but often his size and reflexes keep him in the play, even on second or third chances.
The most important thing for Tarasov at this point, is proving he can remain healthy. After earning a call-up due to injuries in Columbus, he was fantastic; playing in 4 games and posting a 93.7% save percentage. But his season was cut short due to a hip injury that required surgery, costing him valuable starts that are crucial to his development. When he’s in the lineup and healthy, he has the kind of size and skill that you see in elite goaltenders. When he’s on his game, he reminds me a lot of a young Carey Price, he doesn’t have to move and pucks hit him. He’s the kind of goalie that can make the game outright boring.
Now, he may not have the kind of elite upside to become the next Carey Price, but he may already be the best goaltender in the entire Blue Jackets system, he just hasn’t stayed healthy enough or gained the experience required to show his full value. Recently signed to a very team-friendly three year extension, he will have every opportunity to show what he can do with the Blue Jackets. If he can stay healthy and live up to his huge potential, in two years this could prove to be one of the best contracts in the entire NHL. He’s good enough to be a very good starter in this league, a very nice mid-round steal for the Blue Jackets.