For Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman, his knowledge base with first-round pick Vladislav Namestnikov
goes back nearly 15 years.
Yzerman remembers Namestnikov as a youngster playing in the Detroit Red Wings locker room when Yzerman was teammates with Namestnikov's uncle, Slava Kozlov.
"I do remember, a little bit, when he was really young," Yzerman told NHL.com. "He's a year older (than Yzerman's daughter). We used to go and play at the same park and I'd run into him."
He'll be seeing more of Namestnikov now after the Lightning selected him with the No. 27 pick of the 2011 Entry Draft.
Namestnikov was born in Russia, but learned to skate in suburban Detroit. Growing up near Detroit and having an uncle who played with the team gave Namestnikov unique access to players like Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brendan Shanahan during the Wings' Stanley Cup runs during the 1990s.
"I was about 6 years old and my uncle would always take me," said Namestnikov. "I got to meet all of them. I was just so happy when I got home. It was great experience growing up."
Of all the players, though, Yzerman was his favorite, which made Friday that much more exciting for him.
"It's unbelievable," said Namestnikov. "I don't even know how to express the feelings I have right now. It's great. … He remembered me when I was a little kid."
Yzerman is as happy as Namestnikov to have drafted the highly-talented center, who returned to North America in 2010-11 to play with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot, 166-pound forward had a team-high 30 goals and was second on the team with 68 points.
"He's got great skill, got great speed, got great hockey sense," said Yzerman.
It also didn't hurt to have an excess of knowledge about the player he was picking.
"I know his family, I know his father (Jevgeni Namestnikov, who played five NHL seasons)," said Yzerman. "I know the character of the family, the work ethic. With that we're comfortable with picking him. The more information you have on a player, that just makes your decision easier."Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer