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Early returns from Vladislav Namestnikov looking good

Staring at the possibility of being the 13th forward on a talented Lightning squad, Namestnikov may have caught a break with Cedric Paquette's preseason injury.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Vladislav Namestnikov has yet to break out in the same way that other young Lightning prospects have over the past several seasons, but there is little doubt that he's a part of the future of this club.

There was a lot of speculation on social media before last season's trade deadline that other teams could be seeking Namestnikov in a deal and hose team's would have been smart to do so. However, General Manager Steve Yzerman hung on to the young Russian center.

Last season, Namestnikov started in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch where he had 35 points in 34 games. He proved very quickly that he had outgrown the AHL and was ready to contribute in the NHL and earned himself a promotion to the big club. He mostly played a bottom-6 role, but still managed to contribute 9 goals and 7 assists for 16 points in 43 games, plus another assist in 12 games during the 2015 NHL playoffs.

Looking under the hood a little bit as some advanced stats however didn't look very good. While he was on the right side of goal scoring having a 52.9% Goals For (GF) percentage at 5v5, he sported a 49.1% Corsi For (CF) precentage. While not perfect, Corsi is a good indicator of success as it gives an idea of how often a player's team is in the offensive zone and putting the puck towards the net when that player is on the ice.

It was clear that Namestnikov had a lot of potential and he could end up being a 2nd line center one day in the NHL in much the same vein as Valtteri Filppula as a two-way playmaking center. With that said, going into the season, it seemed like he was to be the 13th forward on the Lightning roster and would be seeing a good amount of press box duty despite his offensive abilities. With a the Bolts stacked lineup at center (Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Filppula, Cedric Paquette and Brian Boyle, as well as Namestnikov),it didn't seem Vladdy would draw in much, he also seemed to be uncomfortable at times playing on the wing.

Cedric Paquette's preseason injury that kept him out to start the season  seems to have provided the opportunity that Namestnikov needed to get in and show what he could do, with head coach Jon Cooper has been playing Namestnikov at center with Brian Boyle shifting over to left wing on the fourth line.

While it's still a small sample size, Namestnikov has played well to start 2015-16. He's been using his speed to back defenders off and make space for his teammates. Six games in, he's produced 2 goals and 1 assist. His second goal was this beauty of a breakaway against the Sabres.

Taking a look at his advanced statistics provides similar picture that complements the eye test. The Lightning have yet to allow a goal at 5v5 while Namestnikov is on the ice this season and they have scored 4 goals. Additionally,Vladdy has a CF of 63.4% primarily paired with Boyle and J.T. Brown. Again, this is a small sample size and these numbers will regress as the team continues. But, the early returns look pretty good for young Vladislav, and I expect we'll continue to see him dressing for the team.