Highly touted St. Louis Blues forward prospect Vladimir Tarasenko on Monday was officially assigned by Peoria to his team in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.
The 20-year-old right winger will be assigned to SKA St. Petersburg, the team he finished last season with. Tarasenko spent much of the last four seasons in the KHL and scored 52 goals and 100 points in 176 games.
Tarasenko will return to the Blues when the lockout ends. He also had the option of playing for the Blues' farm team in Peoria, but it would be tough to turn down the wealthier KHL contract.
The Blues drafted Tarasenko 16th overall in 2010 and were eagerly awaiting his NHL debut this season. The entire NHL season is on hold because of the lockout and many players have decided to return to their home countries in Europe to play professionally.
During a news conference Monday, Tarasenko said he looked forward to playing alongside New Jersey Devils star forward Ilya Kovalchuk with St. Petersburg.
"I can say that is was one of the factors that influenced my decision to come here," Tarasenko told Russian reporters. "It is the dream of every young player to play on the same team as such a person."
Tarasenko had been in St. Louis skating with his Blues teammates in preparation for the upcoming season. He had 25 points in 30 games with St. Petersburg last season.
"We believe and Vladi believes that he's accomplished all the things necessary to become a player in the NHL," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said earlier this month. "I know from talking to him over the last couple years and spending time with he and his agent that everyone felt that the time was right for him to come over."
At that time, Tarasenko spoke of his opportunity to play in the NHL.
"I am playing for the best league in the world and I have seen my current team members on TV and I've never played with them," he said. "Now I have an opportunity to play with them and work with them. I appreciate the warm welcome that the guys have given me and I do appreciate all their advice and recommendations."
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at email@example.com or 239-2454.