2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. 11 Vladislav Namestnikov

Since the lockout, just three Russians have been taken in the top 15 of each NHL Entry Draft: Nikita Filatov, Aleksandr Burmistrov, and Dmitri Kulikov. This is due to a lot of reasons, some of which include: the lack of transfer agreement between Russia and the NHL; a lessening of young Russian talent over the past few years; and, of course, a lessening of Russians’ desire to come halfway across the world to play in a league that is much more physical than they are used to.

However, this June, the league might add another name to the list above: Voskresensk, Russia-native Vladislav Namestnikov. Namestnikov is one of the most talented draft-eligible players in the world. No transfer agreement is needed, and he clearly has the desire to play in North America because, well, he’s already here. Playing for the London Knights of the Ontario League, Namestnikov posted 30 goals and 68 points in 68 games this season, along with a plus-12 rating. The 6-foot, 170-pound center is far from a physical specimen, but his skill level is high enough to attract almost every NHL organization when the 2011 draft comes around.

“Vlad plays a high-energy, two-way game,” Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards told NHL.com. “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.”

Compared to Ilya Kovalchuk, Namestnikov has a vast array of skills, including the usual ones for young Russian players: skating ability, speed, stickhandling, passing, and shooting. Something Namestnikov has that many Russian players lack is a great defensive game. Scouts have loved the fact that he is willing to go into the corner to fight for a puck, backcheck all the way down the ice, in addition to being aware in the defensive zone.

But Namestnikov is indeed still adjusting to the North American game. Although he claims that he understands the different style already, scouts still would like to see an improvement. In fact, the only two Russian draftees to make it full-time to the NHL in their draft year in the last few years are Alex Ovechkin and Burmistrov. Don’t expect Namestnikov to add his name to that list, but you can rest assured that he’ll be on an NHL roster in the next few years.

“Namestnikov is going to one of the crown jewel franchises of the CHL in terms of cultivating and developing NHL talent,” said Bruins 2011 Draft Watch. “He’ll get all the help and tools he needs to not only hone his overall game and skills, but raise his profile.”

Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.

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