Filatov’s Move Has Been Coming For a While
After rumors started circulating yesterday, the Blue Jackets announced this afternoon that winger Nikita Filatov has been loaned to CSKA Moscow for the remainder of the season. The prize Russian prospect will play out the rest of the year in the KHL. While the move may have materialized quickly, the ground works have been set for some time.
It has been reported that Filatov’s development, or lack-there-of, has been a point of contention between general manager Scott Howson and head coach Ken Hitchcock. Filatov was a preseason Calder canidate after he made waves in eight games with the Jackets last season, including a hat trick against Minnesota. Many saw Filatov as the best player not in the NHL last season, but his 2009-2010 has not gone according to plan.
In 13 games with the Jackets this season, Filatov registered two goals on just 11 shots; he had four goals on ten shots last year. The diminutive winger has been a healthy scratch in six games this season, including last night’s shootout victory over Edmonton. In his 13 games, he’s averaged just north of eight minutes of ice time. He has had limited opportunity to crack the top six. Instead spending his limited ice time with the likes of Rick Nash, Jake Voracek, or Antoine Vermette, he has been plying his trade with on lines with Jared Boll, Mike Blunden, and Andrew Murray. Not exactly skill players. That’s what it comes down to.
Hitchcock won’t give youngsters ice time unless they earn it in his eyes. Sure there is always the potential for Filatov to make plays. However, while the potential may be there, the on ice product has been a different story. Filatov has played very poorly away from the puck, and carelessly when he has had it. He turned over the puck three times in one shift late in the second versus Anaheim, in a 2-2 game. That doesn’t cut it on a Hitchcock hockey team.
Is this the best move for Nikita Filatov and the Jackets? Hardly. While little Nikita will assuredly get the ice time on CSKA Moscow, along with the opportunity to play for Russia in the World Junior Championships, Blue Jackets brass cannot be comfortable with the deal. Rumors of a KHL departure began swirling in the off-season, and one has to believe that the Filatov-Hitchcock relationship has been damaged this season. Hopefully it is not irreparable. Scott Howson believes that the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft will be back for training camp next year. Filatov has echoed the sentiment and continues to claim that he wants to play in the NHL. Hey Nikita, you were playing in the NHL.
It’s hard to take one side or another as details are still being revealed. This lone just doesn’t sit comfortably. There is precedent and Filatov will not be the only Jackets prospect playing overseas. Lesser defensive
prospect Andrei Plekhanov is playing the season with Dynamo Moscow. The Blue Jackets have loaned players to European teams before, but with no transfer agreement between the KHL and NHL, it would not take a lot for things to take a turn for the worse.
With the contracts of Fredrick Modin, Raffi Torres, Andrew Murray and Jared Boll all coming off the books at the end of this season, It’s likely Filatov will have a better shot at cracking into the top six next season. He’ll also get the opportunity to grow and add muscle, something Hitchcock would definitely like to see. He’ll be playing in probably the best league talent-wise, outside of the NHL. Despite trying to put a positive spin on it, it’s still hard to stomach the move and this will not be the last we hear of it this season.
- Bart Logan