Vladimir Namestnikov:Pre-Draft Reviews

With their first pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning chose Russian center Vladislav Namestnikov of the London Knights.

Here’s what scouts and prospect followers have said about the newest Bolt prospect:

Name: Vladislav Namestnikov
Position: Center
Shoots: Left
Height: 6.00
Weight: 166
Born: 11/22/1992, Voskresensk, Russia
Last Team: London (OHL)
Rankings: CSS 11 (NA Skaters), RLR 25 (Overall), THN 36 (Overall), TSN 31 (Overall)

Stats: 68 games played, 30-38-68, 49 PIM, +12
Playoffs: 6 games played, 1-4-5, 6 PIM

Bolt Prospects: “London Knights pest Vladislav Namestnikov is the nephew of former NHLer Slava Kozlov, but plays with far more edge than the typical Russian player and loves to chirp at the opposition. He competes hard and is a nifty stickhandler, although he tends to be a bit of a puckhog. He's also competent defensively, but he lacks the high-end speed and lateral agility you might want from an undersized player. Unlike Khoklachev, he also struggles to get out of the way of oncoming checkers, which is dangerous for an agitator who weighs in at just 166 pounds. He must get stronger and more street savvy, so to speak, to survive the pro game.

"He'll get a lot of development time with the Hunters in London where he'll have at least two years to add muscle and hone his overall game before going pro. London is an NHL factory. His ceiling is high, but it's a long journey to get there."

The late E.J. McGuire, NHL Central Scouting: “Vladislav has all the skills and talent to be a great player. He has a high understanding of the game and an ability to make things happen. And he compensates for a lack of size with straight-ahead speed.”

Chris Edwards, NHL Central Scouting: “Vlad plays a high-energy, two-way game he’s very aggressive on the forecheck and backcheck and has the ability to beat defenders outside and cut back to the net. He has an excellent wrist shot that he can release with accuracy on the rush. I find him most effective at center, but he is versatile enough to play a solid game on the wing, he’s very responsible defensively and is not afraid of getting involved and battling for pucks. He’ll take the body and take a hit to make a play.”

Matias Stozyk, Elite Prospects: “A very skilled offensive center. A reliable finisher. A good passer and playmaker. An excellent skater. Takes advantage of open space very well. Needs to gain strength.”

Kirk Luedeke, Bruins 2011 Draft Watch: “Skilled Russian came over to the OHL this season and played very well, finishing second to Bruins prospect Jared Knight (25 goals 70 points) in scoring for London with 30 goals and 68 points in as many games. He’s a late-92 birthdate who made an immediate impact with his team and adjusted well to the North American game. Namestnikov led all Knights players with 30 markers this season and has high-end skills and nice wheels. He’s very average-sized at 6-0 and about 170, so will have a lot of off-ice work to do in order to get his body ready for the pro hockey grind, but he’s highly adept at handling the puck, setting up the play and thinks the game at an advanced level.”

Scott Campbell, The Scouting Report: “One of Namestnikov’s biggest strengths is his skating ability; something that is generally on display any time you get the opportunity to view him. An effortless skater, Namestnikov has a textbook blend of top speed, agility, and acceleration which allow him to move around the ice with ease. His offensive skills are up there with any in this crop and his puckhandling ability rivals any of the players in the draft. Namestnikov has a toolbox of nifty moves he is able to use in game situations and is a very good stickhandler at top speed and on the rush.

“His defensive play will need to improve going forward and that’s something I believe he knows he will have to address. One of the big issues is gaining strength, which really hinders his upside at this point. Namestnikov lacks the body strength to hold his position in the defensive zone and use his body more effectively. As he bulks up, you can also expect his offensive game to improve as a result. One concern is that he does have a bit of a lanky frame, so it’s difficult to say if he will ever progress past the point of having below-average strength by NHL standards.”

Red Line Report: "One of the best yappers in the O. Rumor is he once challenege Gandhi to a throw-down, but we're not buying it."

The Hockey News: “The London Knights don’t often rebuild under the Hunter brothers, but this was a down season. Vladislav Namestnikov, however, was a bright spot, finishing a close second on the Knights in points and first at plus-12.

“‘He’s a niftier, offense-type of center,’ said one scout. ‘He does work in all areas of the ice, but his ability to make plays either individually or as a playmaker is his biggest asset.’

“Overall strength is an issue with Namestnikov and based on scouts’ expectations, he underwhelmed a bit at the start of the year, even though his numbers were strong. The fact the Knights have churned out NHLers will also work in his favor of development.”

TSN: “The son of former NHLer Evgeny Namestnikov burst onto international scene at the 2009 U-17's with ten points in five games. Adapted quickly to the OHL with a 68-point rookie campaign. Strengths - Smooth skater with excellent lateral agility and quickness, picked up competitiveness as season progressed, crafty puck carrier with soft hands and elite playmaking abilities, quick release. Weaknesses - Lacks weight, will need to add muscle for the pros, not overly physical, will always have the KHL option if things aren't going well in North America. NHL Upside - Has the skill to be a productive top-two center with added muscle and continued dedication.”

Brendan Ross, The Hockey Writers: “On the ice, the speedy russian made a seemless transition to the North American game and it is reflected as he carries himself with loads of confidence. Namestnikov is an elusive pivot who can create space with the combination of his quick feet and high hockey intelligence. Namestnikov excels in the offensive zone as he puts on a clinic with his superb puckhandling and passing skills often creating a nightmare for his opposition. Opposing defensemen must respect Namestnikov as he can dangle one-on-one or thread the needle to a teammate in the blink of an eye.

"Scouts absolutely love the tool box of offensive skills that Namestnikov brings to the rink every night but the intangibles are what really separates the emerging Knight from other prospects. Namestnikov competes hard and has shown a drive to become a better all-around player as he works on developing to become a better defensive player. As a smaller player, Namestnikov often plays with no fear as he drives to the net, thrives in tight areas of the rink and does not shy away from physical play. The talented Namestnikov projects to be a playmaker but his goal totals (in the OHL and International play) have scouts thrilled about his sniping abilities as well. Namestnikov finished second in team scoring with 68 points and led the Knights in goal scoring with 30 goals.”

Dan Sallows, Scout: "The 6-foot, 165-pound centre has drawn comparisons to a young Igor Lariononv and is an excellent skater, a good playmaker, and an outstanding finisher who takes advantage of open space incredibly well. Namestnikov was selected by the London Knights in the first round (20th overall) of the 2010 CHL Import Draft, though the ultra-skilled forward is deemed as a wild card to actually play in the OHL as he was also a first round pick of the KHL’s Moscow Dynamo. Wherever he plays, he will indeed make an impact, and is considered by many hockey observers to be a top 10 prospect for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft."

Vladislav Namestnikov, via Yahoo: "I think I can compare myself to Nicklas Backstrom, Washington. My favourite player is [Detroit Red Wings star] Pavel Datsyuk because he's Russian -- unbelievable hockey player."