17. LC Vladislav Namestnikov – London (OHL)
DOB: Nov. 22/92 | Shoots: L | Height: 6.00 | Weight: 170lbs
Midterm Rank: 39 | League Rank: 7th OHL | Country Rank: 1st Russia
Big things were expected from Vladimir Namestnikov in his first year playing in North America and after a bit of a rough start, the 18-year-old Russian didn’t disappoint. While his numbers may seem mediocre for a someone who could be in their third season of major junior hockey, there is no doubting Namestnikov’s skill level and the threat that his combination of speed and offensive talent poses to opposing teams.
One of Namestnikov’s biggest strengths his 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.
Offensive production this season could have been better, but Namestnikov did make the best of his situation on a fairly low scoring team. It took him a while to find chemistry with some of the other Knights this season but as the year progressed you could tell he was beginning to feel more comfortable, something that saw an increase in the number of scoring chances he was generating each game. Depending on the game, you could see both the playmaking side and the sniper side of Namestnikov, as he can certainly blend both of those elements into his offensive repertoire.
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.
There have been those who compare Namestnikov to a Pavel Datsyuk type player, and while that comparison seems quite lofty, his playing style is somewhat similar. In addition to his dazzling puck skills and fluid skating, Namestnikov is a pretty good stick-checker and can be a solid defensive center when he wants to be. There’s obviously a lot of work for him to do if he ever wants to come close to the level that Datsyuk is on, but he does appear to have the drive to play in the NHL and seems like a kid that has good character off the ice. Namestnikov certainly has a unique skill-set, and with some time to develop, an NHL team could have a very nice prospect in their system with the Voskresensk native.
Pros: Effortless Skater, High-End Offensive Talent, Quality Shot
Cons: Very Slight Build, More Consistency on the Scoresheet
Skill-set Comparison: Very raw version of Pavel Datysuk