Taratukhin's development Russian along

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

The list of failed forays into the NHL by young Russian players is growing.

Former Ottawa Senators prospect Alexei Kaigarodov rejected an assignment to the AHL and ran back to his homeland less than two months into the season. His rights have since been traded to Phoenix but the Coyotes haven't fared any better in that department -- they suspended Enver Lisin in November after he refused to report to their farm club.

Alexei Mikhnov started the season with the Edmonton Oilers but has since returned to Russia, too, although the team made an effort to claim that decision was mutual.

Amid all these early exits, one Russian player has yet to make his debut.

Andrei Taratukhin, the Calgary Flames' second-round pick in 2001, is rapidly adjusting to the North American game.

He leads the AHL Omaha Knights in scoring with 39 points in 47 games and his .83 points-per-game average is second only to Dustin Boyd, who has been recalled to Calgary a few times this season.

That kind of performance ordinarily would have meant at least a look or two with the Flames by now but a difficult family situation is keeping GM Darryl Sutter from adding to his 23-year-old prospect's stress for now.

Taratukhin has a wife and twin year-old babies to care for and they've all been dealing with immigration issues since opting to come to North America last summer.

"We got his immigration into (the U.S.) but we didn't have (his wife's) and we didn't have the babies,"explained Sutter. "Then we got his wife's and didn't get the babies'. So his wife came over to Omaha without the babies.

"Then we got one of the babies' (papers) -- can you imagine that?"

So it stands, with Taratukhin's family three-quarters intact in Omaha awaiting the final piece of paper to put an end to their turmoil.

"In all that, Andrei's played really well but it's been unfair to call him up because of that," said Sutter. "That's the only reason."

Sutter may have a reputation as a ruthless pro player and ironfisted coach but his softer side has always been apparent when it comes to the family unit.

"How I treat those young guys, to me, they're family and I want to take care of their families," said Sutter.

Members of Taratukhin's surrogate family with the Knights say their brother has come a long way since camp began in Calgary nearly five months ago.

"He's one of my closer buddies," said Brandon Prust, who has spent much of the season on Taratukhin's wing.

"I've probably talked to him more than anyone on the team and try to make him feel at home and make him feel comfortable."

David Moss, who has been busy going back and forth between the Knights and Flames this season, has also learned a little Russian.

"I learned a couple (of words)," said Moss, grinning.

"I don't know what they mean but he just told me to say them and he gets a chuckle out of it, so that's all that matters."

Added Moss: "He loves the game and I don't think it'll be too much longer before he gets a chance."


Videos

Photos