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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Vladislav Namestnikov: A guy you should know

I'm happy to kick off my "Guy you should know" series this year with London Knights center Vladislav Namestnikov, a highly skilled playmaking pivot who looks like a solid first-rounder going into the season.

Namestnikov comes from excellent hockey and athletic stock: his father, Evgeny Namestnikov, was a Vancouver Canucks draft pick who played 43 NHL games with the Canucks, New York Islanders and Nashville Predators from 1993-2000, spending a lot of those years in AHL hubs like Syracuse, Salt Lake City, Lowell and Milwaukee. His mother is longtime NHL forward and Stanley Cup champion with Detroit Vyacheslav "Slava" Kozlov's sister; she was an elite figure skater in Voskresensk, where the younger Namestnikov was born.

A November '92 birthdate, Namestnikov got some very good experience last season playing against men with Khimik Voskresensk (EDIT-- he played in the 2nd division- not KHL), not looking out of place while showing off high-end passing and playmaking skills. A good skater, he doesn't have explosive speed or a dynamic separation gear, but is quick, shifty, elusive and opportunistic. He's more a set-up man than a finisher, but can put the puck in the net with a snappy release on his wrister. It will be interesting to see the breakdown in his production in the OHL this season split between goals and assists. He's shown a penchant for taking the puck into traffic and driving to the net, so it will be interesting to see whether he continues to eschew the perimeter game in London, as in the trenches is where the proverbial bread is buttered.

Culturally, Namestnikov is about as adapted to North America for a Russian as it can get. There are videos out there that show him being interviewed and he speaks flawless English with an almost untraceable accent because of all the time he spent in the U.S. as a youngster while his father was skating in the AHL and NHL.

He's not all that big at 5-11, 165 (and his pop was an undersized d-man when he played as was uncle Slava so he gets no help from the family gene pool there), and he's going to have to add strength and mass.

Namestnikov is one of two very high profile Russians (Windsor C Alex Khokhlachev being the other) who are following the Alexander Burmistrov blueprint (Atlanta's top-10 selection last June) and coming to the OHL where their exposure will not only increase a hundredfold from their peers who stay home, but they'll also have a chance to demonstrate how well their games translate in North America and can openly dialogue with NHL clubs to alleviate signability concerns. Neither player is all that big, so when teams factor their Russian pro experience and then look at how they handle the rigors of the heavy CHL schedule and more physical style, this goes a long way to making sure that getting drafted happens sooner rather than later and is going to be an interesting trend to watch in the continued absence of a transfer agreement between the NHL and Russia.

Namestnikov is going to one of the crown jewel franchises of the CHL in terms of cultivating and developing NHL talent, and through the Hunter brothers, he'll get all the help and tools he needs to not only hone his overall game and skills, but raise his profile. Ditto Khokhlachev in Windsor.

It would not be a surprise to see Namestnikov become one of the OHL's most productive passers, and his presence there should perk up Bruins fans, who have a vested interest in his passing skills especially should he replace Nazem Kadri as Jared Knight's set-up man.


  1. The good thing about Namestnikov and Khokhlachev is that neither has contractual obligations back in Russia with the formers team having folded. It's going to be a battle to the finish between the two as to who is the top Russian.

    Both will be playing on very good teams and both will be counted on to contribute offensively. I dont know how the Russian factor plays into it with these two, seeing they have no obligations back home, but Khokhlachev was quoted in a Windsor paper as saying he would like to one day play for Spartak in the KHL. Who knows when that "one day" may be.

    In the same interview he was asked about Kirill Kabanov and how that situation may effect him. His reply was : "Everyone has his destiny. I don't want to talk about Kirill Kabanov, I've got my own life."

    All in all, it will be fun watching these two this upcoming season.

  2. Being a Knights STH, we'll be counting on you for reports, Dom!

    I think that a Namestnikov-Knight synergy would be really something for the team and maybe even the Bruins.

    With two first-rounders, should the players click and connect together, it would certainly give the Bruins food for thought in breaking their recent trend of passing on Russians early in the draft. And, as you said- not being a part of the Byzantine Russian club system in the KHL is an added incentive to take a player earlier rather than late if they have the skills/performance to back it up.

    Namestnikov's many years spent in the USA and his obvious comfort with North America's language and culture makes him an atypical Russian player, so normal rules/trends do not apply, I would think. That's especially important from a Boston perspective.

    Seems like a real good kid and I've heard solid things about him, so he's definitely someone to watch.

  3. Kirk,

    Keep up the fine work here. You do an outstanding job and even while I disagree with your rankings at times, your effort is applaud-able on so many levels. Good things are in your future.


  4. Thanks for the feedback.

    If everyone agreed on the player rankings, then the world wouldn't need hockey scouts.