Namestnikov headlines small group of CHL prospects for Tampa Bay Lightning

By John Henry Schroeder
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Geoff Schemitsch has to overcome the injury bug, something that has plagued him for the past season and a half. (Photo courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)


The Tampa Bay Lightning currently have only four prospects playing junior hockey, two in the OHL and two in the QMJHL.

OHL

Vladislav Namestnikov, C, London Knights
Acquired: 1st round (27th overall) in 2011

After being selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, Namestnikov has picked up right where he left off in 2010-11. Playing for one of the CHL’s best teams, the London Knights, Namestnikov is second on the team in points, registering 16 goals and 17 assists through 29 games.

Namestnikov has a fantastic set of skills, chief among them being his elite speed. He has also shown off an increasingly mature offensive instinct. Yet, it is Namestnikov’s intangibles that really have excited those following the young Russian. In his second season of OHL hockey, Namestnikov has become something of a leader and developed an exemplary work ethic.

Namestnikov, the only Russian drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft, seems poised to finally crack the defending champion Russian U-20 roster. Expect this youngster to continue to make strides this season as he continues to work on his game, both on and off the ice.

Geoff Schemitsch, D, Owen Sound Attack
Acquired: 4th round (96th overall) in 2010

After a very promising 2009-10 season, the lanky Schemitsch has battled injury and inconsistent play for the last year and a half. Playing for the defending OHL champs, the Owen Sound Attack, Schemitsch has seen some early season power-play time, a notched seven assists through 20 games

However, his fragile nature has been called into question yet again after a collision in his November 12 game against the Mississauga Majors has left him out of the lineup with an undisclosed upper-body injury. A player noted for his strong passing abilities, Schemitsch offensive production has been disappointing, especially considering the talent on his team. A good one on one defender in space, Schemitsch still gets lost in the defensive zone, and shies away from physical play.

The Toronto native has an uphill battle to shake his reputation as a soft, fragile player, but given his supporting cast in Owen Sound, he still has plenty of opportunity to showcase the upside that got him drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.

QMJHL

Adam Janosik, D, Gatineau Olympiques
Acquired: 3rd round (72nd overall) in 2010

One of the better offensive defensemen in the Lightning system, Janosik has emerged as the top puck-mover for the Gatineau Olympiques this season. Through 26 games, the Slovak has tallied two goals and 15 assists, on pace to easily surpass his totals from last season. Particularly effective on the power-play, Janosik seems to have reached a new comfort level in his third season of North American hockey.

Given the lack of blue line depth in the Lightning system, Janosik will have ample opportunity to grow into a solid professional player. The recent success of fellow QMJHL graduate Mark Barberio in Norfolk could have already set the stage for Janosik to make a similar jump next season. Janosik will always be considered a little undersize for his position, but, can continue to fill out his frame. His continued improvement shows promise of Janosik’s value in the near future.

Daniel Milan, D, Moncton Wildcats
Acquired: Fee agent September 23rd, 2011

There was a lot of excitement over the signing of Daniel Milan, coming off his very good 2010-11 season for the Moncton Wildcats. His numbers in 2010-11 were somewhat surprising given that Milan projected to be more of a defensive defenseman. He has a big frame, and is quite mobile for his size. He is also reputed to be a strong decision maker, with a good first pass.

Playing in his age 19 season, Milan got off to a slow start this year with only four assists through 25 games. Moncton struggled as a team in the early going, but has played better as of late. Milan’s low point totals aren’t terribly concerning given what his professional future will likely hold. Relatively under the radar after playing four years of high school hockey in Michigan, Milan stills has a good amount of untapped potential the Lightning brass expect him to live up to.