The return of Nikita Filatov

nikfilatov.jpgBelieve it or not, the life of a top ten NHL draft pick is sometimes a rough one. Take, for instance, the career to this point of 2008’s sixth overall selection Nikita Filatov. He was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets and viewed to be the next guy to slide into the lineup with superstar Rick Nash and help bring some desperately needed speed and goal scoring to a team that is/was one dimensional having Nash be the only guy to carry the load.

Former head coach Ken Hitchcock butted heads with the Russia winger and anchored him to the bench for the better part of last season as Filatov averaged about eight minutes a game. Keeping any young player buried on the fourth line and stuck to the bench is an effective way to destroy their development, so Filatov was sent back to Russia to get the ice time he’d need in a setting that was easier for him to fit into. Now, Filatov is set to return from Russia with a renewed sense of what it takes to make it in the NHL.

Filatov, considered the top prospect outside the NHL by The Hockey News only one year ago, is working out daily, excited to return to the NHL this season, and planning to arrive in Columbus in early or mid-August, about a month ahead of the Blue Jackets’ training camp.

That was the messaged delivered from Wright to general manager Scott Howson, who has decreed that all public comments by the organization regarding Filatov will run through him.

“The trip went very well,” Howson said. “Tyler worked out with him, saw him working out and had lots of conversations with Nikita.

“Tyler was extremely impressed – and he’s not easily impressed – with how hard Nikita is working.”

Filatov’s workout regiment, according to Aaron Portzline, resembles something similar to what Rocky Balboa did while training in Russia to fight Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, including dragging fallen trees and lifting and pushing boulders. I wonder if all of this was set to the song “Heart’s on Fire” and at the end of it, Filatov climbs a mountain in Siberia and yells, “Hitchcock!”

If the Blue Jackets are able to get Filatov back in the lineup and can have him jump in seamlessly and scoring, it’d make for a pleasant surprise for the team that’s currently looking at guys like Kristian Huselius and Jakub Voracek as their next best scoring threats after Rick Nash. While Voracek is starting to emerge as a better scorer, getting a raw, born-to-score guy like Filatov going in Scott Arniel’s system will make things a lot easier for the new coach.

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    Canucks without Sutter (broken jaw), Edler (foot) for foreseeable future

    Brandon Sutter
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    After a good Tuesday night, the Vancouver Canucks are having a lousy Wednesday morning.

    The club has just announced that center Brandon Sutter and defenseman Alex Edler have been sent home from the club’s current two-game road swing, after suffering injuries in a win over Colorado last night.

    Craig Oster, Sutter’s agent, told News 1130 his client has a broken jaw after taking a puck to the face. Per TSN, Edler is undergoing “imaging” on his foot following a blocked shot, but it’s believed he’ll be out the next 2-3 weeks.

    The impact of these injuries could be profound.

    Vancouver hasn’t been good this year but remains in the thick of the playoff chase, sitting just four points back of the Avs for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with three games in hand.

    At the same time, the Canucks also have two potentially big trade chips at the deadline in pending UFAs Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata.

    Will the Sutter and Edler injuries factor into Vancouver’s future plans?

    You’d have to think so.

    Edler is a staple on the back end, leading all Canuck blueliners in points (20) and TOI per game (24:27). Sutter, meanwhile, was supposed to be a key piece of the club this year but has had most of his season ravaged by injury — prior to the broken jaw, he missed 33 games following sports hernia surgery.

    All told, Sutter has appeared in just 20 games this year.

    His is also the second major facial injury suffered by a Canuck this season — Hamhuis only recently returned from a 21-game absence after taking a puck to the face in mid-December.

    Kings place Ehrhoff on waivers

    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Christian Ehrhoff #10 of the Los Angeles Kings head for the piuck during the first period at Staples Center on December 5, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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    The Los Angeles Kings have placed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on waivers, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

    A veteran of almost 800 NHL games, Ehrhoff has not fit well with Los Angeles after signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal in August. The 33-year-old has just 11 points in 40 games and is a team-worst minus-10. Though he had two assists in last night’s 9-2 win over the Bruins, he also took a careless tripping penalty in the first period that led to a Boston goal.

    In a related story, the Kings are rumored to be looking for help on the back end. In fact, they were reportedly quite interested in Dustin Byfuglien, before he re-signed with the Jets.

    According to Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider, 23-year-old defenseman Kevin Gravel is “on the verge of a recall” from AHL Ontario.

    The Kings play Thursday in Brooklyn.

    Report: Kadri’s throat-slashing gesture being reviewed by NHL

    Nazem Kadri
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    Nazem Kadri‘s throat-slashing gesture is under review by the NHL, according to TSN.ca.

    The Maple Leafs forward made the gesture while sitting on Toronto’s bench last night in Calgary, moments after he was laid out by Flames captain Mark Giordano.

    The NHL first started cracking down on the throat-slashing gesture in 2000. Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.

    Fix coming? Blues activate Schwartz after 49-game absence

    Jaden Schwartz
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    After Tuesday’s loss to the Jets — the Blues’ fourth in their last six games — head coach Ken Hitchcock said his club has “got to play harder than this” and “got to compete at a lot higher level than this.”

    He then added “it’s up to us to fix it.”

    Well, help is on the way.

    On Wednesday, the Blues activated forward Jaden Schwartz off injured reserve, after he missed the last 49 contests with a fractured left ankle. Schwartz is expected to be in the lineup on Friday when the Blues take on the Panthers in Florida.

    The 23-year-old should provide an immediate boost to the lineup. Schwartz had four points in seven games before getting hurt, and that came on the heels of a successful ’14-15 campaign in which he posted career highs in goals (28) and points (63).

    The Blues’ first-round pick in 2010 (14th overall), Schwartz is a 17-18 TOI per night guy, so he’ll be a big presence almost immediately. His return also inches the team back to full health, though there’s still a ways to go — Alex Pietrangelo and Jake Allen are still week-to-week with knee and lower-body injuries, while Steve Ott is out until late February following hamstrings surgery.

    Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made