The Sudbury Wolves have confirmed they will select sixth overall NHL pick Nikita Filatov first overall in the Canadian Hockey League’s import draft Thursday in a move that would have to classify as high risk-high reward.
The Wolves have the first choice in the draft and it has been rumored recently they will use it on Filatov, who played in the Central Army organization in Russia this season.
“All roads are pointing in that direction,” Wolves GM-coach Mike Foligno told thn.com.
The Wolves are taking a significant risk in drafting Filatov because there’s a chance he’ll never play for them. The talented left winger, who was described by one NHL scout in THN’s Draft Preview as having “as much skill as anyone in this draft,” could end up playing for Columbus next season if he has a good camp, or for the Blue Jackets’ American League affiliate in Syracuse.
The Blue Jackets could also opt to send Filatov to Sudbury if they don’t think he’s physically prepared to play either in the NHL or the AHL.
“We’ve already told Nikita that we’ll see how things go in training camp and we’ll decide what’s best for him,” said Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson. “We’ve made sure all the junior teams know there is no guarantee, but I guess Sudbury figures he’s too good to pass up.”
Foligno agreed, particularly after traveling to the under-18 World Championship in Kazan, Russia this spring to watch Filatov play.
“We’re comfortable we’ve had all our questions answered,” Foligno said. “We’re comfortable with our decision.”
Filatov said prior to the draft he has no contractual obligations in Russia and is free to pursue his career in North America, regardless of which level he plays. The Wolves, who drafted a talented center in John McFarland with the first pick overall in the OHL draft, obviously hope that development route goes through Sudbury.
Because Filatov was not drafted into the NHL from a CHL team, the Blue Jackets would not be obliged to send him to junior hockey. Foligno said the risk of drafting Filatov is buffered by the fact the Wolves already have an import player on their frozen roster who would be activated if Filatov doesn’t end up playing for them.