TAMPA (FOX 13) - When the Lightning drafted Vladislav Namestnikov number one in 2011, not many could even correctly pronounce his name.
Earning a spot on the Lightning's playoff roster last season brought new attention, but it still wasn't about his game. Namestnikov was part of Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show Superlatives -- Fallon calling him the Russian Justin Bieber.
"Yeah, I found out on Twitter and my feed was blowing up," laughed Namestnikov. "It was nice and fun at the same time."
Now Vladislav Namestnikov is making his name known as the Lightning's newest rising star. He's no longer a player just fighting to stay on Lightning's NHL roster.
"It's not an easy transition when you're a young playing coming in," said Steven Stamkos. "He's done a great job. He's got a taste the last couple years, I think that's helped. He's improving every day."
Namestnikov is getting better by the game. He just scored goals in back-to-back games for the first time in his NHL career.
"It's nice," continued Namestnikov. "It adds confidence, but as long as the team is winning, that's all that matters."
Namestnikov grew up a Steve Yzerman fan in Michigan. His uncle, Vyacheslav Kozlov, was teammate of Yzerman's with the Detroit Red Wings. So watching his first pick rise into an NHL up-and-comer is a feel-good story for the Lightning's GM.
"He's a very intelligent hockey player," said Yzerman. "I think if you watch him play out there he understands the game. He knows the game. We think he has the ability to play in all situations. Whether you want to describe him as a first line or a fourth liner, time will tell. I think he has the ability to play in all situations."
Finding ice time on this talent-loaded team isn't easy, but Namestnikov is giving the Lightning plenty of reasons to get his name in the lineup and on the ice.