The third installment of the Blueshirt Banter 2011 NHL Entry Draft Prospects Previews is Vladislav Namestnikov.
Namestnikov is a very interesting prospect for a variety of reasons.
For starters, he's a Russian who speaks fluid english and is completely adapted to living in North America. That's probably thanks to his father spending time in both the NHL and AHL, giving Namestnikov a chance to learn the language and the culture as a child.
Namestnikov also has no contractual ties to the KHL, meaning the team that drafts him can do what they want with him from day one. That's a huge factor when analyzing wether or not an international player should be drafted.
But those are the intangibles off the ice, which effect draft stock, but are certainly not the main decision maker as to wether or not he should get drafted. Thankfully, his play on the ice is superb as well.
Namestnikov's first season in the OHL was a successful one, notching 30 goals and 38 assists in 68 games. He also added a goal and four assists in six playoff games. Known for his elusiveness and intelligence on the ice, Namestnikov has opened eyes with his passing and quick wrist shot.
Join me after the jump for scouting reports and final analysis. (Also, we don't have any pictures we're permitted to use of some of these prospects, so enjoy McIlrath today.)
NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards
"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."
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. (Matias Strozyk)
Vladislav Namestnikov, C London- 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. He speaks perfect English, as he spent much of his youth in the U.S. and Canada while his dad, Evgeny, was playing in the NHL and AHL. His uncle, Slava Kozlov is a Stanley Cup champion and 800+ point scorer in the NHL, so Namestnikov's sterling blood lines will help. He's a typical skilled European player who is very good offensively, but is still a work in progress in terms of his defense, but there is some upside here for sure.
OK, there are positive and negative things to note here. Let's kick off with the negatives.
Almost every scouting report on him mentions his strength. Obviously he's still young, and will fill out as he gets older, but if he gets pushed around in the OHL (and he does right now) he would get destroyed in the NHL. This is actually a good problem to have, since it's something that can be fixed, but it's certainly the biggest knock on him.
Now onto the positives.
His energy is one of the first things you hear about, which is fantastic. What makes it even better, is that he uses his high-octane style on both ends of the ice. His speed and elusiveness help him find space on the ice, and once he gets into space he becomes even more dangerous.
Although scouts are most impressed with his playmaking ability, he has a quick accurate wrist shot that helped him score 30 goals in his rookie year in the OHL. If he gets in close, however, he's even more dangerous, using lightning quick hands to juke goalies out of their jocks for goals.
Here is a quick highlight video showing some of his in-close moves.
Now, before any of you say it, let me cut out the Evgeny Grachev comparisons. First of all, let's wait another year before we call Grachev a bust. But second of all, they are different players.
Yes, both had fantastic rookie years in the OHL and, as of now, that hasn't translated to the AHL for Grachev. But Grachev is a power forward, who according to prospect guru Russ Cohen, take more time to develop than a "traditional" forward.
Namestnikov is already adapted to North America. Showed flash and intelligence in his first season in the OHL, and seems to be a budding playmaker who can add some goals as well.
So what do you guys think? Do you want the Rangers to take this kid at 15?