Recently Vladislav Namestnikov was named the 62nd overall prospect in The Hockey News’ 2015 Future Watch issue on a team so loaded with talent, the magazine additionally rated their prospect pool fifth in the league.
It is easy to see why the latest Lightning rookie was so honored. His numbers with the Syracuse Crunch this season are impressive: despite only playing 34 games, which is 21st out of 33 skaters to have suited up for the AHL team, the Russian is third in team scoring (14-21-35). It is nothing new for Namestnikov: he was also third in scoring with the Crunch in the 2013-2014 season with 48 points in 56 games. This was after excelling with his junior team, the London Knights, with 140 points over two seasons.
While he has yet to find his NHL game, putting up only ten points in 32 contests in the 2014-2015 season, there are some silver linings to his extended stay in the Show. One, while his SAT (shot attempts) are among the lowest on the team (24th with an SAT of 2) his numbers in close situations improve to 19th on the team , according to NHL.com’s SAT stats. Additionally, his shooting percentage is among the top ten on the Lightning at 13.20%.
The 2011 first round pick has some post-season history to draw on as well when the Lightning enter the playoffs in April. In 2012, Namestnikov’s London Knights advanced all the way to the Memorial Cup Finals, only to lose to the Shawinigan Cataractes. In the following year, it was the same story during the 2013 Calder Cup Finals. The Crunch lost to the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Coming so close to post-season success in juniors and the AHL has only made Namestnikov hungrier to finally lift a Cup over his head. Come June, fans in Tampa hope it will be Stanley.
Michelle Timian fell in love with hockey after watching a game between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs in 2006 and has been following hockey ever since. She is a graduate of Western Illinois University with a degree in Creative Writing and is more comfortable in front of a keyboard than on skates. She also blogs for the New York Rangers at blueshirtsunited.com.