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Rookie Steven Tarasuk is finding his groove

December 30, 2010 by Mark McGlothlen 

STarasukBy: Mark C. McGlothlen

Steven Tarasuk, rookie defenseman for the Kalamazoo Wings, had a big decision to make this past summer: go to college or enter the world of professional hockey. The choice may have been an easy one for most athletic minded individuals, but it was not as simple for Tarasuk.

One big factor in his decision was the fact that the Ontario Hockey League, for which Tarasuk played from 2006 to 2010, provides an education package to a Canadian University for its players. If a player joins the pro ranks, however, that package is no longer available. Tarasuk eventually chose to sign a contract with the New York Islanders organization. “It was definitely a decision that had to be made over the summer and it was something that a lot of thought was put into,” Tarasuk said. “But I’m glad I am here and happy to be contributing.”

In 24 games, Tarasuk has scored two goals and assisted on nine others for 11 points on the season, which ties him for the team lead among defenseman with A.J. Thelen.

The 21-year old native of Thornhill, Ontario, is adjusting well in his first season of professional hockey after spending the last six years playing junior hockey. “So far it has been nice to get my feet wet,” Tarasuk said. “Obviously, coming from juniors is a little different playing with the older guys; they are a bit bigger and stronger.”

It is the “older” guys on the team that Tarasuk turns to when he has questions. “Jon Landry and Ryan McGinnis (defensemen) both sit beside me in the locker room, so a lot of the time I chat with them.” Veterans Kory Karlander and Sam Ftorek are his go-to guys for more of the team-based questions. “They have a lot to offer and have more experience than the younger guys,” Tarasuk added.

Tarasuk is one of four players who is property of the New York Islanders organization, with which the K-Wings are affiliated, along with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. Justin Taylor, Matt Duffy, and Corey Syvret are the others. For Tarasuk, watching other players getting the nod from the AHL can be a mixed blessing, especially when they are non-affiliated players.

“It is a little frustrating knowing that you are within the organization and they (Bridgeport) call up a non-affiliated player,” Tarasuk said. “But at the same time, I’m happy for those guys, I want to see them be successful too.” Tarasuk noted that Bridgeport was going through some tough times earlier this season and were looking for some veteran leadership. “You have a guy like Wes O’Neill(K-Wing captain) who got called up; he’s a strong player and a good leader and played in the NHL.”

Admitting that it is a tough climb up the pro ladder, Tarasuk knows what he has to do to earn that chance. “In order for me to be successful, I have to show what I can do offensively and at the same time show that I am not a liability in my own end,” Tarasuk said. Playing on the power play is also something that Tarasuk thinks will help showcase his talents. “I think Coach Bootland is giving me plenty of opportunities to show what I can do on that,” he added.

A positive attitude is also needed. “You can’t get down on yourself. The only way you are going to get to the next level or get back up there is by working hard and making sure you are doing all the right things, “Tarasuk added.

Tarasuk scored his first professional goal on November 5th in a game against the Toledo Walleye. “It was definitely exciting and nice to get it in our home building and in front of our fans,” Tarasuk said. “Hopefully there is more to come.”

Steven Tarasuk Quick Hits

Born: November 1, 1989

Favorite NHL Team: Toronto Maple Leafs

Part owner of Envisionhockey (Envisionhockey.com), a youth hockey camp in Ontario.

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