Nikita Filatov scheduled to arrive in Columbus Wednesday to prepare for training camp

Thumbnail image for filatov.jpgIf you ask me, the Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t do a whole lot this summer to improve a team that fell well short of making the playoffs in 2009-10. You can blame a weak free agent market or a lack of cash all you want, but the bottom line is that the team doesn’t look very different.

So it seems that GM Scott Howson & Co. are hoping that a new coach (Scott Arniel) and internal improvement will get the job done. Perhaps they can increase their overall optimism in at least one player – former defector Nikita Filatov – as the Russian prospect arrived in the U.S. a few weeks before training camp to get acclimated. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch provides the story.

Left winger Nikita Filatov has informed the Blue Jackets that he’ll arrive in Columbus on Wednesday, the Dispatch has learned, giving him roughly six weeks to get acclimated before the start of training camp.

Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson confirmed Filatov’s travel plans.

This will almost certainly delight the Blue Jackets coaches, players and executives, who sent development coach Tyler Wright to Russia last month to evaluate Filatov’s workout routine and gauge his feelings heading into the 2010-11 season.

And it confirms Filatov’s comments to the Dispatch shortly after Wright’s visit, that he would arrive the first week of August.

While he only has six goals (and somewhat oddly, zero assists) in 21 career NHL games, much is expected of the No. 6 overall pick of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Former head coach Ken Hitchcock’s combative, defensive-minded style rubbed Filatov the wrong way to such an extent that he left the team for CSKA Moscow in the KHL. (Filatov scored 22 points in an abbreviated 26 game stint with the team.)

It will be interesting to see what Arniel will make with what seems like an unshaped mass of clay posing as a hockey team this season. The group isn’t well-stocked with high-end offensive talent beyond face-of-the-franchise Rick Nash and notoriously fragile center Derick Brassard, so the Blue Jackets must hope against hope that Filatov can “figure it out” this summer. Arriving early and with a good attitude would be a great first step.

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    Canucks could really use Patrick or Hischier

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    The Vancouver Canucks are hoping for better luck in tomorrow’s draft lottery. If they receive it, they may get a player who can step right into their lineup, and stay there for years to come.

    The top two picks in the 2017 draft are expected to be centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.

    It remains to be seen who will go first overall. Patrick was the consensus pick for a while, but Hischier started to gain ground with an impressive showing for Switzerland at the World Juniors.

    “I think the top two players in this draft have the potential to maybe step in and play next year and be productive players at the NHL level,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning. “But I think the next three players, whether you’re looking at a play-making center, or potentially a power-play defenseman, there’s good choices there too.”

    Gabe Vilardi and Casey Mittelstadt are two centers the Canucks could select if they fall out of the top two. Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen, and Timothy Liljegren are options on defense.

    But getting Patrick or Hischier would be a huge win for a team that will soon have to replace Henrik Sedin, who turns 37 in September.

    Benning says Patrick offers a combination of size (6-3, 198), skill and hockey sense, with “no real weakness in his game.”

    As for, Hischier it’s his speed that really stands out.

    “He’s built for today’s game,” said Benning. “His speed going through the neutral zone is fun to watch.”

    The Canucks have the second-best odds to win the draft lottery. The furthest they can fall is to fifth.

    Last year, Vancouver fell two spots from third to fifth, with Winnipeg and Columbus moving up. The Canucks drafted Finnish defenseman Olli Juolevi with their selection.

    Draft lottery odds

    Colorado Avalanche 18.0%
    Vancouver Canucks 12.1%
    Vegas Golden Knights* 10.3%
    Arizona Coyotes 10.3%
    New Jersey Devils 8.5%
    Buffalo Sabres 7.6%
    Detroit Red Wings 6.7%
    Dallas Stars 5.8%
    Florida Panthers 5.4%
    Los Angeles Kings 4.5%
    Carolina Hurricanes 3.2%
    Winnipeg Jets 2.7%
    Philadelphia Flyers 2.2%
    Tampa Bay Lightning 1.8%

    Paajarvi out, Barbashev in as Blues look for ‘physical element’

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    After losing Game 1 — and with it, home ice advantage — of their series against Nashville, the Blues are making a lineup change for Friday’s Game 2.

    Ivan Barbashev, who’s been a healthy scratch the last three games, will draw in, replacing Magnus Paajarvi. Paajarvi sits despite being a fairly productive player recently, notching a goal and three points in his last five games.

    This, of course, includes the game-winning, series-clinching OT goal against Minnesota on Saturday:

    “We like to give players a chance to respond and a chance to get back in there when they’re coming out of the lineup,” Blues head coach Mike Yeo said, per NHL.com. “We saw what that did for (Jori Lehtera). It’s in no way anything against Magnus. We’re very grateful and appreciative of what he’s done and what he can do for us, but ‘Barby’ has been a good player for us for a long time, too.

    “Having him in the lineup, he’ll be energized and bring a physical element… When he gets the puck of the offensive zone, he has a chance to create something. We’ll see how he does tonight.”

    The hope is that Barbashev can rediscover some of the form shown during the regular season. The Russian rookie made an impact, scoring five goals and 12 points in 30 games.

    Sabres granted permission to speak with Futa

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    Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Kings promoted Mike Futa to assistant general manager.

    But Futa received that promotion before the Sabres cleaned house last week, and that timing is important to note.

    Because it’s now being reported, via a Kings spokesman, that the Sabres have been granted permission to speak with Futa about their GM vacancy.

    It’s no surprise that Buffalo has asked to interview Futa. He was a candidate for the Sabres’ GM job in 2013 — a job that eventually went to Tim Murray.

    Futa was once thought to be heir apparent to Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles. But when Lombardi was fired, the Kings went with Rob Blake instead.

    Some background on Futa, courtesy the Kings:

    Futa most recently served as Kings Vice President, Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel. This upcoming season will be Futa’s 11th season with the Kings.

    Futa recently concluded his 10th full season with the Kings, and third in his most recent position. He was named VP of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel in May of 2014 after serving as Director of Amateur Scouting, a position he assumed on June 5, 2007, when he originally joined the Kings.

    Futa came to the Kings when he was appointed Co-Director of Amateur Scouting along with Mark Yannetti. Together, Futa and Yannetti rebuilt and retooled the entire Kings Amateur Scouting staff.

    Related: Darryl Sutter wants to keep coaching

    Habs sign Quebec League sniper Waked

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    On Friday, Montreal agreed to a three-year, entry-level deal with QMHJL Rouyn-Noranda forward Antoine Waked.

    Waked, 20, is coming off a strong season in which he racked up 80 points in 67 games. He finished tied for ninth in the league in goals, with 39, in what was something of a surprise. Previously, the Quebec native had never scored more than 15 goals in a campaign, suggesting Waked could be the prototypical late bloomer.

    An undrafted free agent, Waked had been tied to the Habs earlier this season, with reports he’d receive an ELC at the end of his junior campaign.