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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    Blues’ Shattenkirk suffers lower-body injury

    Kevin Shattenkirk
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    This hasn’t been the best night for St. Louis sports fans.

    Obviously, the MLB’s Cardinals getting bounced from the playoffs is a bigger deal, but the Blues face bad news, too.

    While they’re currently leading the Calgary Flames by a score of 4-3, they’ll need to hang on without Kevin Shattenkirk, whose night is over thanks to a lower-body injury.

    There’s no word yet on how severe the issue might be.

    Naturally, the Blues must hope that it’s minor, as Shattenkirk is one of the NHL’s truly underrated assets on the blueline.

    Stephanie (@MyRegularFace) tracked down a moment when the injury may have happened:

    It’s not all rosy for the Flames, either, as Lance Bouma suffered an injury as well.

    Measure of revenge? Red Wings bottle Lightning


    In some ways, it really felt like their first-round series.

    For all the talent on both ends of the rink with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning, each squad can really smother opponents defensively when things go that way.

    Through two periods, the two teams were very quiet. Things really picked up when Justin Abdelkader unleashed a big hit, a moment that injected enough life into the proceedings for the Red Wings to eventually build a 3-1 win.

    Maybe they’re slipping under the radar a bit compared to previous iterations of the team, but it’s interesting that the Red Wings are now undefeated in three games.

    They’ve been impressive at times, too, outscoring opponents by a combined score of 11-4.

    Call it a refreshing time after Mike Babcock or merely carryover from a subtly solid run last season, but either way, the Red Wings may just be able to keep up their end of a brewing rivalry.