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Tampa Bay Lightning takes Vladislav Namestnikov with 27th overall pick in NHL draft

Vladislav Namestnikov, above center, has an uncle, Slava Kozlov, who played with Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

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Vladislav Namestnikov, above center, has an uncle, Slava Kozlov, who played with Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — One of the most important aspects when evaluating a player, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said, is character. That is something he said he does not need to worry about with Vladislav Namestnikov.

Tampa Bay's first-round draft choice Friday, 27th overall, is the nephew of Slava Kozlov, a teammate of Yzerman's with the Red Wings. His father, Evgeny, played 43 NHL games with the Canucks, Islanders and Predators.

"I know his family. I know his background," Yzerman said. "When (Tampa Bay's scouts) started talking about him, it kind of excited me because he comes from a very good family."

Namestnikov, 18, a 6-foot, 166-pound center, ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the No. 11 North American skater, had 30 goals, 68 points and 49 penalty minutes in 68 minutes for London of the junior Ontario league last season.

Al Murray, Tampa Bay's head of amateur scouting, said he was at the top of the Lightning's list of remaining players.

"We see a combination goal-scorer, playmaker who's responsible (defensively)," Murray said. "Being around those Detroit dressing rooms, he talked about watching Steve and those players. I think he learned some real good lessons."

Actually, Namestnikov said, "I can barely remember it. I was like 7 years old."

Still, he said, "It's really special, a guy like Yzerman running an organization I'm going to be in. It's unbelievable."

REVAMP: The Lightning in the past few weeks retooled its scouting department, hiring five amateur scouts and letting go four.

Added were Brian Putnam, John Rosso, John Burkart, Rob Kitamura and Brad Whelan. Michel Boucher also was promoted from part time to full time.

The hires come at the end of a yearlong evaluation process that began with the hiring of Murray.

"We wanted to take some time and assess where we were going and how we wanted to have things run," Yzerman said. "We appreciate the work those gentlemen (let go) did for us, but we felt it was time to make some changes and add some people Al particularly wanted to work with."

HELPER: Sean Couturier, whom the Flyers drafted eighth overall, said Lightning coach Guy Boucher was critical in easing his transition to juniors.

Boucher was leading Drummondville of the Quebec league in 2008 when Couturier, a center, came on the scene.

"He's great, Couturier said of Boucher. "Everyone on the team he treated fairly. … He protects the players and he's there for them. You respect that."

STAYING PUT: Norfolk will be Tampa Bay's AHL affiliate next season, despite speculation of a change to Syracuse, N.Y., or Portland, Maine, to cut down on travel, Lightning assistant GM Julien BriseBois said. There are no talks to extend the five-year deal with Norfolk that expires after 2011-12.

QUOTEs TO NOTE: D Eric Brewer, who has the same agent as unsigned C Steven Stamkos, on his teammate: "I would say that he's probably not going to go anywhere." … From G Dwayne Roloson, who can be an unrestricted free agent July 1, on Twitter: "To answer all the rumors that have been going around, no I will not be retiring. I have a Cup to win for my team. Thank you for the support!

>>bio

Vladislav Namestnikov

From: London of the junior Ontario league

Age: 18

Ht/Wt: 6 feet, 166 pounds

• In his first season in the Ontario Hockey League, he led the Knights with 30 goals (30-38—68), 11 on the power play, and a plus-12 rating in 2010-11.

• Namestnikov represented Russia at the 2010 under-18 world championships in Belarus, tying for the team lead with five goals (5-2—7) in seven games; Russia finished fourth. He also represented his country at the world under-17 challenge, tallying eight goals (8-2—10) in five games.

• His father, Evgeny Namestnikov, was drafted 117th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 1991 and played 43 NHL games with the Canucks, Islanders and Predators from 1993 to 2000 before returning to play in Russia. His mother was an elite figure skater.

• His uncle is former NHL player and Stanley Cup champ Vyacheslav "Slava" Kozlov.

• From Voskresensk, Russia, 1½ hours north of Moscow, he moved to the United States for the first time when he was 8 months old. He started skating when he was 4.

Tampa Bay Lightning takes Vladislav Namestnikov with 27th overall pick in NHL draft 06/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 25, 2011 12:26am]
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