Senators Player Profile: Nikita Filatov

This is the fourth in a series of profiles on each player for the Ottawa Senators.

Nikita Filatov, C/LW, Contract: 2.195,833/12 (RFA)
Drafted 1-6/08 (Howson), 6’0, Shoots R, YOB 1990, Moscow, Russia
2008-09 8-4-0-4 +3 0pim TOI 8:07, AHL 39-16-16-32
2009-10 13-2-0-2 Even 8pim TOI 8:06, KHL 26-9-13-22
2010-11 23-0-7-7 +3 8pim TOI 12:19, AHL 36-9-11-20

Prior to being drafted by Columbus, Filatov was the captain of the Russian team that won the silver medal at the 2008 Under-18 World Championships (leading the team with nine points, the same feat he’d performed in previous year at the tournament, http://www.nhl.com/ice/draftprospectdetail.htm?dpid=211).  Filatov was GM Scott Howson’s first true draft pick (much like Bryan Murray, Howson became GM just before the 2007 draft and so was reliant on Doug MacLean’s scouting staff), but like so many talented forwards who entered the Columbus system (Jakub Voracek, Derek Brassard, Gilbert Brule, Alexandre Picard, Nikolai Zherdev, etc), things did not work out as planned.

Filatov’s first year was under the combustible Ken Hitchcock.  He performed well both at the AHL and NHL level, but his relationship with Hitchcock seemed sour from the start (a week after scoring a hat-trick against Minnesota his coach was talking about demoting him to the AHL, www.bluejacketsxtra.com/live/content/sports/stories/2009/ 01/18/jackets_notes_1-18.ART_ART_01-18-09_C6_F0CIKFU.html?sid=101).

The following season was Hitchcock’s last (not just with Columbus, but as a head coach), being replaced towards the end of the season by the short-lived Claude Noel.  Expectations were high for Filatov (http://www.dailyfaceoff.com/180/columbus-blue-jackets-20092010-season-preview), but Hitchcock remained unhappy with his defensive play and so Filatov requested a loan to the KHL in November (playing for CSKA Moscow and scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace with Denis Parshin and Konstantin Korneyev as linemates).  Externally, much of the blame for Filatov’s struggles was heaped on Ken Hitchcock (sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/ allan_muir/11/13/filatov.brunnstrom. howard/index.html and sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ 2010/writers/ jim_kelley/02/04/hitchcock.firing/index.html).

Optimism (http://www.aolnews.com/2010/09/15/2010-11-columbus-blue-jackets-preview-waiting-on-youth/) was high going into Filatov’s third year in the organisation (only his second in terms of his entry-level contract because of his games played his first season) under new coach Scott Arniel.  His ice time crept up, but there were still issues (again related to his defensive play–this link blog.dispatch.com/cbj/2010/11/ looking_for_a_split.shtml will remind you of Jason Spezza‘s early days) and he was sent down to the AHL in December.  His play was indifferent in the minors and his season was ended by a concussion a few months later.

By the 2011 Entry Draft, Filatov had asked for a trade.  Given the now deleted tweet by R. J. Umberger (http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Columbus-gives-up-on-Nikita-Filatov-deals-him-t?urn=nhl-wp8009), it seems like Filatov’s problems were as much with some of his teammates as with his coaches (although it’s hard to be definitive, since it was Umberger’s spot on the second line that Filatov took when he was  playing well).  Howson was able to trade him to Ottawa (receiving a 3rd round pick used to draft T. J. Tynan), allowing both Filatov and Columbus to move on.

So what kind of player is Filatov?  He’s talented enough to dominate at the AHL and KHL level and there’s no doubt he can produce as an NHL player, but will he?  Filatov leaves a Columbus team that has never scored more than 226 goals in a season or had more than 41 wins–a team that emphasizes defence over offence.  There is, however, no doubt that Filatov himself was part of the problem by not showing enough dedication to team play.  As Tim Murray said in an interview on The Team back on June 28th (http://www.facebook.com/TEAM1200), there’s plenty of blame that can go either way, but in Ottawa he’s going to have a fresh start and be given the opportunity to make mistakes.

It’s difficult to guess how Filatov will do in Ottawa–it’s extremely hard to find a comparable player (Alexander Semin is the closest I could think of).  I think he will make the team (he made Columbus the last two years), but how he’ll perform is hard to guess given how small his NHL sample size is.  If everything goes well he could put up 50 points and 20 goals–of course, he could also wind up in the KHL.  It will be interesting to see how his season unfolds.

Here’s his Hockey Futures profile: www.hockeysfuture.com/prospects/nikita_filatov
Filatov’s hat-trick: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arXAjBUbJtM
Filatov’s pre-game routine:: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHvjdX36lUA

Next up is Zack Smith.

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5 Comments

  1. Great read well documented!

  2. You have several factual errors in your story…

    #1 Team Russia won the bronze medal at the 2008 world juniors.

    #2 Scott Howson’s first draft pick was Jakub Voracek in 2007.

    #3 Filatov never played for Claude Noel as a head coach. Hitchcock wasn’t fired until February of 2010 and Filatov was already back in Russia.

    #4 The season that Filatov’s contract was rolled over was his first, 2008-2009. He only played like 8 games in that season. In the second year he stuck around long enough for his contract to activate before he went back to Russia.

    But you are right overall, The Blue Jackets mismanaged him terribly, Hitchcock is a giant windbag who will never sniff another NHL coaching job and Filatov didn’t do himself any favors with his own actions.

    • Your points:

      #1 Please see http://www.nhl.com/ice/draftprospectdetail.htm?dpid=211
      #2 You are correct about Howson who became the GM on June 15th just before the draft (now corrected in the article), although he would had no choice but to rely on the scouting staff MacLean had put together (much like Murray did with Muckler’s team in 2007)
      #3 and #4 You are absolutely correct (changed above)

  3. i got a feeling he’s going to look much improved. Maybe not right away, but by mid-season i think he’ll be much happier and eventually be able to play with confidence again. It is a good situation for him with lots of young guys and relatively lower expectations. The senators are not going to be too tough on him. A lot will depend on the new coaching staff and how patient they are with him.
    i wasn’t that optimistic when i first heard about the trade, but the more i’ve thought about it the more i think he will work out.

    • I find it really hard to have set expectations for him–there’s no questioning his talent, but how will he do? He’s a boom or bust player I think (which is a great risk to take given that he’s still on his ELC).


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