He can’t put his finger on exactly what it is. All that Vladislav Namestnikov can assess with any semblance of accurate precision is that something was definitely off last season, his debut campaign with the Detroit Red Wings.
“Just last year was a weird year for me,” Namestnikov said. “The pandemic, a lot of posts. Sometimes that happens.”
So far this year, it’s fair to say that a lot is on in terms of Namestnikov’s game. He’s certainly been one of the pleasant developments for the club as the were entering the holiday break.
“I think I’m just more comfortable in the room,” said Namestnikov, the nephew of two-time Red Wings Stanley Cup winner Slava Kozlov. “I know the systems now. I’m out there and I’m just playing hockey.”
The stats sheet already shows him scoring nine goals in 31 games. That’s one more than Namestnikov’s production during 53 games of the 2021 campaign.
tyson barrie does… this and vladimir namestnikov gives the red wings a 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/sjePZl1iKn
— zach laing (@zjlaing) November 10, 2021
His shooting percentage has, well, shot up. A career 13 percent success rate fell off to 9.2 last season. In 2021-22, it has skyrocketed to 22.5 percent. Among players who’ve skated in at least 15 games this season, that ranks 13th overall in the NHL.
“He’s played to his shooting percentages,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “His shooting percentages have been below the norm I’d make the argument for the last 2-3 years. Statistically he should have more goals. Actually, I think it should be the last four years.
“He’s worked hard this summer trying to get that to at least where it’s at the NHL norm. I know he’s done a good job of that.”
Summer Camp Paying Off For Namestnikov
At the end of last season during exit meetings, the outline for improvement for Namestnikov was to be spending the summer working on perfecting his shot. He took the advice to heart. Namestnikov spent time attending sessions with a Michigan-area skills coach who was also working with Detroit teammate Jordan Oesterle and Alex DeBrincat of the Chicago Blackhawks.
“He talked about how he worked really hard at it this summer and it is something that him and I met about at the end of the year last year,” Blashill said. “He went to work hard on his shot but there’s more than just the shot that can allow you to score goals.
“I know he spent a lot of time in the summer doing that. He’s worked hard at it and it’s paying off for him.”
Namestnikov doesn’t dispute the notion that summer camp is working wonders with his game. “This year I had a good summer,” Namestnikov said. “I worked hard, it’s paying off right now. I hope I can keep producing like this and help the team win.”
Nose For The Net
On a team bereft of players who either don’t want to or aren’t physically capable of battling their way to a net-front role, the 6-foot, 180-pound Namestnikov is displaying no qualms about working his way into the so-called dirty areas of the rink.
“He is somebody who’s been around the net,” Blashill said. “Guys that are around the net tend to have a little higher shooting percentages because of the types of goals they’re scoring.
“They’re not just necessarily beating a goalie from the slot, they’re getting a rebound goal, a tip goal, an in-tight goal.
“One of the things he can be good at is being slippery around the net.”
Namestnikov Earning A Promotion
There’s an old saying about the coach who’s listening to the fans soon becoming one of them. Last season, a significant percentile of the Red Wings faithful would’ve been delighted to see Namestnikov run out of town on a rail.
He was still being slagged by a portion of the fan base as the 2021-22 campaign was commencing.
Other than the results, Blashill isn’t seeing much different in Namestnikov’s game than what he was delivering last season. That was his first after signing a two-year, $4-million contract as a UFA.
— The Majors Detroit 🚘 (@TMSNXDetroit) October 12, 2020
Prior to the team being ravaged by COVID-19 and being briefly shut down, the plan was in place for a Namestnikov promotion to the second line alongside Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri. The thinking was that his ability to grind the puck down low and create a net-front presence would be giving the line a different element than what Filip Zadina was delivering.
“He’s probably earned it through his play as much as anybody,” Blashill said. “I think he’s been playing real good hockey. He’s found the back of the net and I thought he looked excellent.”