The play of the goaltenders for the Columbus Blue Jackets may have been the most disappointing part of their season. Part of that concern is 24 year old top prospect Daniil Tarasov, who has yet to take the next step and become an every day player in the NHL.
Originally thought of as a first round talent for the 2017 NHL Draft, Tarasov missed the entire 2016-17 season due to a serious knee injury; which caused him to fall way off in the draft. Eventually, the Jackets took a chance on the big Russian goaltender, picking him in the third round (#86 overall) of that draft.
Tarasov was the seventh goalie taken in the draft, which is not bad considering he hadn’t played hockey in over a year at the time his name was called. Early returns looked very positive for the Jackets as he came back and dominated in Russia’s junior league the next season. Two years after being drafted, he found some time in the KHL, while mostly playing at a very high level in their second tier league (VHL).
Two more seasons in Europe (including one in Finland), and Tarasov finally made the jump to North America for the 2021-22 season. Since coming over, the results have been really mixed. There are times when he looks dynamic – and other times when he looks sluggish in the net. Last year he played just 15 games combined between Cleveland (AHL) and the Jackets. While his AHL numbers were pedestrian (.893 save percentage, 3.06 goals against average); he fared a lot better in four appearances in the NHL and gave us hope.
This season, he came into the year with a fresh three-year contract extension, and was named the team’s starter on opening night. But as things went with the Jackets this year, Daniil’s season was doomed from the start. Ultimately, he played just 17 games in the NHL (16 starts), posting a .892 save percentage, 3.91 goals against average, and winning just four games.
Worse for the Jackets, his numbers in the AHL were even poorer (.882 sv %, 3.85GAA). Now, part of this is because the defensive structure and personnel throughout the entire organization were both dreadful this year. Both of those things should be corrected heading into next season, which should mean less shots and goals against. But, the concerning thing here for Daniil and the Jackets, is that he struggled to stay healthy again, which is quickly becoming the defining trend in his career.
Final season stats: (NHL) 17gp (16 starts), 4-11-0, .892% sv pct, 3.91 GAA, 471 saves, 57 goals against, 874 minutes. Overall grade: C-
Like starting goalie Elvis Merzlikins, the Jackets need Daniil Tarasov to be ready to go this fall. He’s on a one-way deal now, which means the team cannot send him to the AHL without clearing waivers. This essentially means that he’s one half of the goaltending tandem in Columbus this year – so staying healthy and finally showing his full potential is crucial at this point. If he can’t do both of those things, he may be on his way out before we know it.