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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    PHT’s second-round playoff predictions, featuring the red-hot Random Thing Picker

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    It was a tough first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for many of the so-called experts of the world.

    Upsets included the Predators over the Blackhawks and the Blues over the Wild. The Rangers over the Canadiens was a quasi-upset, too.

    Here at PHT, it was a mixed bag. Mike Halford and Cam Tucker each went an impressive 6-2. And so too did the Random Thing Picker, which as its name suggests, picks random things. (And picks them rather well, apparently.)

    Of note, the Random Thing Picker and James O’Brien were the only ones to pick the Preds over the ‘Hawks. So congratulations to both robotic lifeforms on that bit of soothsaying.

    Rounding out the rest of the first-round results, Adam Gretz and Joey Alfieri went 4-4, while at 3-5, O’Brien and yours truly couldn’t even crack .500. (Stupid Jake Allen.)

    On to the second round!

    Washington versus Pittsburgh (Stream Capitals-Penguins)

    Brough: Capitals in 7
    Halford: Penguins in 6
    O’Brien: Capitals in 7
    Gretz: Capitals in 7
    Tucker: Capitals in 6
    Alfieri: Capitals in 7
    Random Thing Picker: Capitals

    New York versus Ottawa (Stream Rangers-Senators)

    Brough: Senators in 6
    Halford: Senators in 7
    O’Brien: Rangers in 7
    Gretz: Rangers in 6
    Tucker: Rangers in 6
    Alfieri: Senators in 6
    Random Thing Picker: Senators

    St. Louis versus Nashville (Stream Blues-Predators)

    Brough: Predators in 6
    Halford: Blues in 7
    O’Brien: Predators in 6
    Gretz: Predators in 6
    Tucker: Predators in 7
    Alfieri: Predators in 6
    Random Thing Picker: Blues

    Anaheim versus Edmonton (Stream Ducks-Oilers)

    Brough: Ducks in 7
    Halford: Ducks in 6
    O’Brien: Ducks in 6
    Gretz: Oilers in 7
    Tucker: Oilers in 6
    Alfieri: Ducks in 6
    Random Thing Picker: Ducks

    Feel free to add your picks below…

    Auston Matthews to skip Worlds

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    Auston Matthews is going to take some time off.

    As such, the 19-year-old star forward won’t be heading overseas to represent the United States in the upcoming World Championship.

    You can hardly blame him. Matthews just finished his rookie season in the NHL, playing all 82 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, plus six more in the playoffs.

    Oh, and he also played in the World Cup for Team North America.

    Matthews did participate in last year’s Worlds. He had six goals and three assists in 10 games on the way to a fourth-place finish.

    Related: Gaudreau, Eichel commit to USA Worlds roster

    Blackhawks fire their AHL head coach

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    Yesterday, the Chicago Blackhawks fired longtime assistant coach Mike Kitchen.

    Today, it was longtime AHL coach Ted Dent who got the ax.

    Dent has been the head coach of the Rockford IceHogs the past six seasons, and he was an assistant coach for Chicago’s AHL affiliate the previous five seasons.

    “The Chicago Blackhawks thank Ted for all of his contributions throughout his tenure with the organization,” GM Stan Bowman said. “He played a major role in helping a number of players reach the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks, many of whom became Stanley Cup champions. We wish Ted and his family the best.”

    The IceHogs missed the playoffs this season, finishing last in the AHL’s Central Division with a record of 25-39-12.

    Related: A furious Bowman addressed the Blackhawks’ postseason failure

    Report: Canucks close to naming Travis Green head coach

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    The Vancouver Canucks are reportedly set to announce Travis Green as their next head coach.

    According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the announcement will be made in the next couple of days.

    Green, who played over 1,000 games in the NHL including the playoffs, has been the head coach of the Canucks’ AHL affiliate in Utica the past four seasons. Under his watch, the Comets have played mostly winning hockey in spite of some rather depleted lineups.

    Ever since Willie Desjardins was fired at the end of the season, Green has been the leading candidate to take over in Vancouver. The only question, really, was whether he’d be a candidate for another NHL head-coaching vacancy, perhaps with the Florida Panthers.

    Assuming no last-minute hiccups, Green will take over a transitioning Canucks team that has finished 28th and 29th overall in its last two seasons, respectively.

    “We’re going to be young,” president of hockey ops Trevor Linden said. “Young players make mistakes. There’s going to be some growing pains. We need a coach that understands exactly where we are.”

    Related: In farewell to Vancouver, Desjardins defends his approach to young players