What to Expect from Vladislav Namestnikov
The Lightning recalled center Vladislav Namestnikov and goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced Friday. Gudlevskis was recalled on an emergency basis due to an injury to Ben Bishop.
According to the Lightning’s press release, Namestnikov, 21, has skated in 31 games this season with Syracuse, posting 13 goals and 30 points to go along with 19 penalty minutes. He ranks tied for first on the team for points and assists. The Zhukovskiy, Russia native also ranks tied for first on the Crunch for power-play goals with six. The 6-foot, 183-pound forward has skated in 75 career AHL games over the past two seasons, all with the Crunch, recording 20 goals and 51 points.
He was originally drafted by the Lightning in the first round, 27th overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft.
Gudlevskis, 21, leads the Crunch in games played with 22 in his first season in North America. His four shutouts leads Syracuse and are tied for the AHL lead. Gudlevskis has assembled an 11-8-2 record with a 2.69 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. He began the season with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL, posting a 7-4-0 record with a 1.83 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 11 games.
A native of Aizkraukle, Latvia, Gudlevskis was selected to represent his native country in the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. He played in four games during the 2013 IIHF World Championships, posting a 2-2-0 record with a 2.22 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
Gudlevskis was drafted by the Lightning in the fifth round, 124th overall, at the 2013 NHL Draft.
Gudlevskis is expected to be the back-up goaltender on Saturday, though it’s not out of the question he starts against Detroit before he leaves for the Olympics. If he's first off the ice at the morning skate, a "What to Expect" write-up will be posted on BoltProspects.com before game time.
What to Expect from Vladislav Namestnikov
Namestnikov, who is expected to play Saturday against his uncle Slava Kozlov's former team, was drafted out of London of the OHL when he was an extremely thin teenager who possessed skill and a tendency to throw his body into situations with no concern for his well-being.
He made his professional debut last year and it took him half a season before everything started to click. By the playoffs, Namestnikov had transformed from a fast checking liner learning the AHL ropes to a legitimate scoring threat. He carried that on to this year’s team where he’s been the Crunch’s top-line center as long as he’s been healthy.
Vladdy centered a lethal line for the first month of the season with JT Brown and Nikita Kucherov – both of whom were recalled to the NHL while Namestnikov was recovering from a broken hand. Had he not sustained the injury, Namestnikov may have received the call instead of Kucherov.when Steven Stamkos went down with a broken leg.
Jon Cooper craves a gritty speed game from his club and Vladdy could be a poster child for Cooper’s philosophy. Steve Yzerman handpicked him for his speed, skill, and competitive nature and it’s easy to see now what Yzerman and company envisioned for the Michigan native with Russian roots.
Vladdy plays with the skill and vision of a Russian with the grit of a North American. He’s the motor on whatever line he’s on and won’t hesitate to make a hit or get his nose dirty to make a play or win a loose puck. He still has some of that reckless abandon he had in London, but he’s much more patient as a scorer and playmaker. He’s got an NHL shot and NHL passing ability, everyone is just waiting on him to fully mature physically as he’s still very light on his skates.
He had excellent chemistry in Syracuse with Kucherov and “Brownov” on the “Wizards of Ov” line – especially with his fellow Russian, Kucherov. If that line is put back together in the injury-caused absence of Valtteri Filppula on Saturday, there could be instant chemistry again, but like in his first foray into the AHL, it will be a learning process for Vladdy in the NHL.
His natural smarts as a two-way player will help him – he’s one of the AHL’s best backcheckers – and he’s a trustable player. Vladdy was just starting his ascent to becoming an impact pro when Cooper was promoted to the Lightning.
Vladdy’s promotion – even for just a game – will give Lightning fans a sneak preview of what’s to come from the next center in line to make a permanent jump from Syracuse to Tampa, possibly as soon as next year.