Newest Jet handles impossible assignment

Namestnikov holds McDavid off scoresheet


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Welcome to Winnipeg, Vladislav Namestnikov. Now please go chase the world’s greatest hockey player around the rink all night.

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Welcome to Winnipeg, Vladislav Namestnikov. Now please go chase the world’s greatest hockey player around the rink all night.

Yes, it was quite the tough first assignment for the newest Jets skater on Saturday night at Canada Life Centre. Namestnikov, 30, was thrown onto a checking line with Adam Lowry and Morgan Barron and tasked with trying to shut down Connor McDavid.

“Just have a clear head. It’s hockey. Go out there and have fun,” Namestnikov said prior to puck drop of getting thrown straight into the proverbial fire. “All the systems stuff, I’ve been through it all. I just have to go out there and learn on the fly, and give my best.”

Safe to say it went about as well as could be expected. The trio held McDavid off the scoresheet in a wild 7-5 Jets victory. Namestnikov chipped in with an assist, while both Lowry and Barron lit the lamp.

The Russian-born forward was obtained on Friday in a swap with the San Jose Sharks, with Winnipeg sending a 2025 fourth-round draft pick the other way. Incredibly, it’s the fourth different trade deadline Namestnikov has gotten a new hockey home.

“I’ve been through this a lot of times, so I’m kind of used to it now,” he said with a chuckle. “You kind of come in, you get to meet everyone and then you jump on the ice with them and go play.”

He actually got dealt twice this week. The Tampa Bay Lightning sent him on Wednesday to the Bay Area in exchange for former Jets forward Michael Eyssimont. Namestnikov remained in Florida, however, as the Sharks told him they were working on a subsequent move to a playoff contender.

“It was a nervous (time). They called and said they were going to flip me somewhere else, so it was a waiting game. When I found it was Winnipeg, I was happy to join the team here,” said Namestnikov.

It helped that there was plenty of familiarity waiting for him as he prepared to join his eighth NHL team. Namestnikov previously played for Jets head coach Rick Bowness in Tampa Bay and Dallas.

“It’s good when you’re familiar with the coach and the system,” he said. “I played with (Sam Gagner) in Detroit. Neal Pionk with the Rangers, and Dylan DeMelo in Ottawa.”

Namestnikov had career highs of 20 goals and 24 assists in the 2017-18 season with Tampa Bay, where he primarily played on a line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. He’s now pegged in more of a bottom-six role, with six goals and 10 assists through 58 games this year.

“I think I’m a two-way player, responsible in my zone. I can play in all situations and will give everything for the win,” he said.

“I’m excited for the opportunity and I’m just going to do my best and go out there and play.”

Bowness had no doubts about Namestnikov’s ability to quickly adjust to his new surroundings and was thrilled with the addition to the roster.

“He’s got a lot of hockey sense. He knows how to play. And he’s played all three forward positions. Takes faceoffs. He’s done a lot over his career, so I’m not too worried about him,” said Bowness.

“He’ll make plays. And he’s tough. He’s not the biggest guy, but he has some toughness. Again, it’s his hockey sense and his versatility that makes him a key addition for us.”

Namestnikov joins a Winnipeg team that has been sputtering of late. They entered play Saturday night having lost five straight games, and just 6-11-1 in the last 18,

“For me, I just have to come in and bring that energy. But nothing really changes in my game. I just have to go out there and play that two-way, responsible hockey and be an energy plug and go out there and do that,” he said.

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.


Updated on Saturday, March 4, 2023 10:51 PM CST: Photo updated for image of Vladislav Namestnikov

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