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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    ‘He doesn’t seem to get rattled’: Blues officially name Alex Pietrangelo team captain

    St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo (27) skates against the Chicago Blackhawks' in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
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    The news leaked a day early, but on Thursday the St. Louis Blues made it official: Alex Pietrangelo is the 21st captain in the club’s history.

    Selected fourth overall in 2008, Pietrangelo has played 459 games for the Blues, with 51 goals and 255 points in that span. He takes over the ‘C’ from David Backes, who signed with the Boston Bruins as a free agent this summer, following the Blues’ run to the Western Conference Final.

    “Watching him perform when the game is on the line, he doesn’t seem to get rattled,” said Blues GM Doug Armstrong of Pietrangelo, as per the club’s website.

    “As the captain, you have to answer questions, the tough questions when games are over. I really like his personality, his demeanor to his teammates, to the coaching staff and to the media. He’s someone that has the respect of everyone.”

    In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at the end of July, Pietrangelo praised Backes for the impact he had on the young defenseman as he was developing with the Blues.

    “I think being so close with Dave over the five years he was captain, I’ve learned a lot from him just kind of sitting back and seeing how he operates on a daily basis,” said Pietrangelo.

    “Not only on the ice but off the ice, which is a big part of it trying to keep the locker room together and doing the off-ice stuff.”

     

    Coyotes GM: Bolland ‘won’t be ready to play for the foreseeable future’ due to injury

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    Arizona Coyotes fans anticipating Dave Bolland‘s debut for his new team will have to wait, and a long time, too, by the sounds of it.

    On Thursday, the Florida Panthers traded the 30-year-old Bolland and prospect Lawson Crouse to the Coyotes in exchange for draft picks. Bolland, who has an annual cap hit of $5.5 million, played in only 25 games last season, scoring once with five points.

    The move frees up plenty of cap space for the Panthers, while the Coyotes did well to pick up a young forward in Crouse, a former first-round pick who has yet to play in the NHL.

    However, at the moment, Bolland is dealing with an injury that could keep him out of any lineup for quite a while. Perhaps the entire season.

    Last season, Bolland was a healthy scratch on numerous occasions, which could be frustrating for any player or any organization, but he was locked into a massive five-year, $27.5 million contract.

    And that massive contract, or Florida’s desire to move it along, has cost the Panthers a prospect forward.

    Video: Pavel Datsyuk scores first goal since returning to KHL

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    Pavel Datsyuk’s venture into the KHL has been official for a while.

    This latest development might add salt in the wound of Red Wings fans who wish the skilled but aging center was still playing for the Original Six franchise.

    He has now scored his first goal since returning to the KHL. Another former NHLer, Ilya Kovalchuk, set it up off the rush. Datsyuk finished off the play with a slick backhander coming down the right wing.

    After it took weeks to decide his future with the Red Wings, Detroit finally unloaded his contract to Arizona at the draft in June.

     

    Poll: Will Jaromir Jagr lead the Panthers in scoring again?

    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14:  Jaromir Jagr #68 of the Florida Panthers signals a teammate during the third period against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on March 14, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    This is part of Florida Panthers day at PHT…

    At age 43 Jaromir Jagr was the oldest player in the NHL last season by more than four years.

    You would have never known it when watching him play.

    He was still a dominant top-line player and on many night was the best player on the team. His 66 points were more than any player in NHL history age 43 or older, and he finished as the team’s leading scorer.

    While he has obviously slowed down from where he was during his peak years in the league when he was one of best players ever, he is still playing at a level that almost no other player in NHL history has been able to match at this age. And there doesn’t seem to be any sign of him dramatically slowing down in the near future.

    Because of that, the Panthers are bringing him back in 2016-17 for at least one more year.

    So with Jagr back in the mix for another year, will he end up leading the Panthers in scoring once again even though he will be 44 years old? Jagr is one of just three players in NHL history that has ever finished as his team’s leading scorer over the age of 40, a list that includes only him, Gordie Howe and Teemu Selanne. He is the only player that has done it over the age of 43 and the only one that has done it for two different teams (New Jesrey in 2013-14 and Florida in 2015-16).

    The one player that seems to be a significant challenger is Aleksander Barkov. He finished just seven points behind Jagr in 2015-16 (in 12 fewer games) and spent most of the season playing on a line with Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau, a trio that was one of the most dominant lines in the league when they were together. But given how Jagr still seems to be in great shape and was still a 60-point player a year ago he is not going to be easy to overtake.