Monsters’ Tarasov piling up memorable moments

Photo: Cleveland Monsters

📝 by Nicole Del Villano | AHL On The Beat

Memorable moments have defined some major milestones of Daniil Tarasov’s career since he made the transition from the KHL to North American hockey. From joining the Cleveland Monsters during an abbreviated 2020-21 season to an unforgettable National Hockey League debut, it has been quite the experience for the young goaltender.

Originally selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third round of the 2017 NHL Draft, Tarasov was assigned to the Monsters in March of 2021 and immediately made an impact. He posted a 4-2-0 record during the shortened season, including a win in his AHL debut, and continued to build on that momentum while adapting to the North American style.

“There are different things about playing in North America, but we practice a lot and have a lot of goalie sessions,” said Tarasov. “[Goaltending coach] Brad Thiessen has helped me a lot here to learn more things. There is a lot of traffic and pressure here for me in front of the net [with a lot of] opportunities and shots.”

The Novokuznetsk, Russia, native’s sessions were put to the test at the start of the 2021-22 AHL season with the return to a more traditional league schedule and an increase in the caliber of play. A more predictable schedule this year allowed Tarasov to appear in games in a regular cadence for the first time since leaving Russia and the increase in ice time also allowed the Monsters coaching staff a closer look at how Tarasov was improving.

“In watching him, he seems to be settling in on how the North American game is being played,” said head coach Mike Eaves. “He is not sliding as much from side to side and is more in control of his body in the crease. I think he is getting used to the style of play here, so it is really going in the right direction for him.”

Not only did the Monsters staff notice changes, but the Blue Jackets kept a close eye on Tarasov’s development as well. The goaltender’s chance to make his mark in the NHL came in the form of an unexpected opportunity early in the season. With both Blue Jackets goalies out due to illness, Tarasov received an emergency call up on Dec. 2 to fly across the country and appear in the lineup the same night.

Photo: Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“I woke up and [Monsters general manager] Chris Clark called me to say I was going up, take my gear from the practice rink and go to the airport to fly to Dallas,” said Tarasov. “It all happened quickly. I played the game and enjoyed it. I was excited to play my first NHL game and it went pretty well… The guys helped me a lot.”

After appearing in three games for the Blue Jackets posting a .936 save percentage, Tarasov returned to the Monsters on Dec. 10 and jumped back into the crease. The goaltender is currently back on the Blue Jackets roster after a second call-up on Dec. 26, but not before enjoying a special moment with his teammates in Cleveland.

On Dec. 17, Monsters fans donated over 10,000 stuffed animals for Teddy Bear Toss Night, marking yet another memorable night in Tarasov’s career.

“[The Teddy Bear Toss] was amazing,” said Tarasov. “It was pretty good for fans and for us too. I have never seen that many teddy bears on the ice. We have the same in Russia, but not with that many bears on the ice.”

In addition to his on-ice achievements, Tarasov has also been making memories outside of the rink. Building his life together with his wife, the 22-year-old has immersed himself in the Blue Jackets organization, the state of Ohio and specifically Cleveland. Being able to spend most of his downtime in Cleveland is something that Tarasov and his wife have enjoyed as he continues to grow his new life in the area.

“[We] spend a lot of time in Crocker Park and live there,” said Tarasov. “It is a pretty good spot with a lot of shops, restaurants and cinemas. We go to a lot of restaurants, but my favorite is actually just [eating at] home though because I love my wife’s cooking. The Cleveland area is pretty good and we like it here.”