Nikita Filatov arrives in Columbus and speaks about his year away in Russia

Thumbnail image for filatov.jpgThe life of a potential phenom in the NHL can have its ups and downs. The ups come when you’re an exceptional talent like Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin and can have the world at your feet because you’re just that talented. The downs come when you’re exceptionally talented player who struggles within a rigid team system. For Blue Jackets Russian prospect Nikita Filatov, life has been more downs than they have been ups when it comes to NHL life. Last year, Filatov spent most of the season away from Columbus playing in the KHL so as to continue playing hockey in a more comfortable situation and far from the lock-and-key style of now former head coach Ken Hitchcock.

Now that Filatov is back in Columbus ahead of Blue Jackets training camp, he’s speaking about his year away and where he’s at now both as a player and as a person coming back to a situation that is familiar in Ohio, yet very different as Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch found out.

Q: Do you feel like [new Columbus head coach Scott]Arniel wants to play a style that better suits your skills?

A: Every player would like the coach who sees the game the same way, who feels it the same way. Of course, I would like that, but we’ll see. I haven’t met (Arniel), so all I know is what other people tell me about how he likes us to play.

Q: Did you ever feel comfortable in former coach Ken Hitchcock’s system?

A: I can’t say anything bad about Hitchcock. It’s his vision of hockey. He’s one of the greatest coaches in the league. He’s had success. You can’t say anything about it. He did win the Stanley Cup. And to be honest, I can say he taught me a lot, especially my defensive game. Maybe I didn’t like all of his processes, how he taught it, but I learned a lot. The coach in Russia (Sergei Nemchinov), when I came back, he said he was impressed that I was playing the best defense. Of course, Hitcher taught me a lot here.

Trying to read between the lines here of what Filatov is saying seems pretty easy to do. A hard-minded coach like Hitchcock wants a player to be able to backcheck in all zones and is willing to sacrifice offense to make it happen. Filatov is a guy that needed seasoning in the first place as when he was drafted he was still a pretty thin guy. Now he’s a little bigger and a little stronger and a lot wiser (it would seem) and adding muscle and smarts to a guy that was already a quick and offensively gifted player can amount to the Blue Jackets seeing an offensive blast out of the blue next season.

Whether this pans out and new coach Scott Arniel can make things work with what could be a very gifted offensive team and not just Rick Nash and eleven other guys remains to be seen. Filatov has the talent to be a top six forward by leaps and bounds, whether his development was stunted in Columbus from playing in the AHL to playing a handful of minutes per game in the NHL is unknown, but if he can shake all of that off, he might turn out to be one of the mentally toughest players in the league.

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    Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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    Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

    McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

    With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

    1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
    2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
    3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
    4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

    As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

    Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

    The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

    Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

    Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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    Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

    Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

    McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

    Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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    The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

    They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

    The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

    Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

    The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

    The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

    Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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    Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

    Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

    Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

    via Getty Images

    The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.