Daniil Tarasov was one of the many victims of the injury bug in 2022-2023, which plagued the Blue Jackets all season long. When Tarasov was able to play, he put up poor numbers on a bad team. Is this the year that Tarasov takes the next step and becomes a full-time NHL goaltender?
G Daniil Tarasov
6’3”, 154 lbs
2022-2023 stats: 17 GP, 4 W, 11 L, 3.91 GAA, 0.892 SV%, 0 SO
Acquired: Drafted in 3rd round, #86 overall, 2017 NHL Draft
Contract: $1.05m AAV through 2024-2025
Role: Back-up Goaltender
Daniil Tarasov missed the second half of the 2022-2023 season due to an injury. He began the season as the de-facto #1 goalie due to injuries to Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo. The season got off to a terrible start for the entire organization, which also includes Tarasov. He was left in vulnerable positions on a nightly basis by a defense that was not-so-good. There were times that he showed glimpses of his potential. However, the onslaught by other teams on a nightly basis was too much for the young goaltender. Tarasov produced mediocre numbers (0.892 SV%, 3.91 GAA), and did little to encourage fans of his future.
As for the 2023-2024 season, Tarasov is expected to be a full-time goalie in the NHL. Merzlikins is going to be the #1 goalie. Merzlikins is paid like one, has more experience, and has proven to be a #1 goalie (at times). That means that Tarasov will start the year as the backup. He will be expected to play between 20-30 games this season to keep Elvis rested. There may be times this season where Tarasov is utilized more frequently. Whether that be due to an injury to Merzlikins or the fact that Tarasov is on a hot streak, it does not matter. Expect to see Tarasov multiple times this season. Also don’t expect Tarasov to be sent to Cleveland at any point this season, as he will now be required to go on waivers prior to his demotion. CBJ management appear nervous that he may be claimed by another team should he go on waivers.
One bold prediction: Tarasov will end the season as the #3 goalie on the Blue Jackets depth chart. Tarasov has not had good luck with injuries in his career and I hope that he stays healthy all season long. However, we haven’t seen him more than 30 games in a single season since coming to North America. He played 6 in 2020-2021 (all in Cleveland), 15 in 2021-2022 (4 in Columbus, 11 in Cleveland), and 28 in 2022-2023 (17 in Columbus, 11 in Cleveland). He has not shown that he can stay healthy for an entire professional season (82 games). If he gets hurt again, the Blue Jackets will need a new backup goalie. The hunch is that this goalie will come via a trade or a wavier wire pickup. But nonetheless, the prediction is that a different goalie (besides Merzlikins) will play more games than Tarasov due to Tarasov’s health concerns.
Three keys to success:
- Stay healthy. This is a big emphasis with Tarasov. This is the year that the CBJ management expect him to be a full-time NHL player. The opportunity is in front of him, but he can only make the most of his opportunity by staying healthy first. He needs to show everyone that he can stay healthy for a majority of the season.
- Rely on the improved defense. The defense last season was atrocious and left the goalies out-to-dry on a nightly basis. The defense has been re-tooled and should be vastly improved in 2023-2024. This should put both goalies in a better position for success. Tarasov needs to rely on that defense and not try to make too many acrobatic saves.
- Learn from Merzlikins. Elvis struggled to begin the start of his NHL career. Once he got settled in (and an injury occurred to Korpisalo), Elvis really shined and played some of his best hockey. Tarasov can learn from that experience. He should really lean on Elvis for mentorship.
The CBJ management is putting a lot of faith in Tarasov. Now he needs to stay healthy and seize his opportunity. If he can’t stay healthy or show that he can be a full-time NHL player, his spot on the roster this season and going forward may be in jeopardy. This is an important season for Tarasov’s career.