ST. LOUIS — Forever linked as the St. Louis Blues' two first-round picks in the 2010 draft, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz have found special ways to introduce themselves to the NHL.
Tarasenko scored two goals on his first two NHL shots Saturday --just as Schwartz did last season. Schwartz's came in separate games, but the feats are still remarkable.
"I was a little nervous before the game, but now I'm happy to be here," Tarasenko said after the game. "I want to say thanks to my teammates for their help. They help me so much."
The pair of promising young forwards were two of eight home-grown first-round draft picks in the lineup for the Blues.
"Yeah it's cool," Schwartz said. "I met him at the draft and it's kind of neat no that we're here playing together. I know he's real excited and I am, too."
Tarasenko displayed a lot of that excitement after becoming the 14th player in Blues history to score a goal in his NHL debut. He broke in alone and beat Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard with a quick wrist shot.
Tarasenko added to the magic with his second goal of the night on his second shot just 29 seconds into the second period.
The 21-year-old winger had 14 goals and 31 points in 31 games in the Kontinental Hockey League, which featured current and former NHL talent along with the top players in Russia.
"I don't think this is a big deal for Tarasenko as far as the competition; he's played against men for two years," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "His adjustment is going to be the ice surface. You can see him; he's catching himself all the time because it's such a different environment. It's such a different game in Europe, especially the way they play in the KHL. He's going to have to adjust to that.
"Schwartz is a different player. He can come and play up and down your lineup and still be effective, where Tarasenko needs to play that top-nine role."
Schwartz, playing left wing on a line with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart, won the job with a strong showing during training camp.
He was given the good news in a Friday meeting with Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong.
"I didn't know what to expect, obviously they had quite a few guys in camp so I was a little nervous," Schwartz said. "He said congrats."
Schwartz couldn't participate in the morning skate Saturday while waiting for Chris Porter to clear waivers. Schwartz's teammates couldn't resist a few playful jabs about his "optional skate," but he admitted he would much rather have been on the ice.
Schwartz's training camp performance came on the heels of a successful run at minor-league Peoria, where the former first-round pick was able to play important minutes and impact roles during the lockout.
"I was playing all year, (so) playing in the AHL helped me a lot," said Schwartz, who had nine goals and 19 points in 33 games with the Rivermen. "I was playing a lot of minutes and there's a lot of guys who played in the NHL who were down in the AHL this year.
"When you match up against them it can give you confidence if you're playing well. I was glad I got that opportunity this year and I felt like it helped me going to camp."
Hitchcock said hard work will go a long way toward determining the ice time given to the rookie forwards.
"If you're going to have a team, you just can't give a young guy a spot and then you've got guys waiting who are good players," Hitchcock said. "Not having success is one thing, not working is whole other animal. All we want from them is to work and if they work, their skills are going to take over. If they work and keep up that's all we're looking for."
The Blues' opening night lineup did not include veteran forwards Jamie Langenbrunner and Matt D'Agostini and defenseman Jeff Woywitka.
"We'd like to get a read on three or four young guys that are up there right now, see what they look like and then probably settle in after Game 3 or 4," Hitchcock said. "Obviously Jamie's going to be there, but Reavo's had a hell of a camp. He's played very well, he's shown the ability to be really a lot more than a one-dimensional player."