Ordinarily, a player who was coming off a 40-goal, 37-assist season with no offseason setbacks of any sort wouldn’t make this type of list. But after failing to collect a single point in the first five games of the Western Conference while simultaneously struggling in pretty much every intangible facet of the game (puck-handling, skating, defending in his own zone), Tarasenko needs to prove that he can come up big when it matters and maintain his stamina throughout a long season. Tarasenko played for Team Russia in the World Cup of Hockey last month, so pacing himself will be extra-crucial this season.
On top of that, the 24-year-old probably needs to up his offensive output even more during his fifth NHL season, and he’ll need to play a better all-around game than he ever has before. The Blues are almost certainly going to see a drop-off in goals this year, because they can’t expect their current cast to make up for Troy Brouwer and David Backes’s goals from last year, but a small increase in scoring from Tarasenko would be a huge help.
In addition, he’ll presumably be seeing more time on the penalty kill this year, so it’s crucial that he stays disciplined as a passer and defender when necessary. He’s historically had a penchant for bad giveaways (he led Blues forwards with 34 last season), so the Blues are going to need him to mature in that area this season.
Finally, after being the Blues’ best player for a while without having any real leadership responsibility, Tarasenko has been given an ‘A’ on his jersey for this season. He’s going to need to have some influence over a room that now has very few veterans.
So in summary, all Tarasenko has to do this season is score more, hold onto the puck, defend better, and develop into a trusted leader. Sounds simple enough.