Nikita Filatov (G Fiume/Getty Images)
There were high hopes for Nikita Filatov when he was drafted sixth overall in 2008, but Filatov flamed out and headed for Russia. In an interview, Filatov said financial troubles played a part in his departure and said he’s sad to see Ken Hitchcock, Filatov’s coach in Columbus, heading for retirement.
Here’s a name some will remember and one that some, namely Blue Jackets fans, will have tried to forget: Nikita Filatov.
Filatov, 26, last played in the NHL during the 2011-12 season as a member of the Ottawa Senators when he was a 21-year-old, but his time with the Senators, who acquired him for a third-round pick, was incredibly unsuccessful and largely forgettable.
Early in Filatov's tenure with the Senators he was demoted to the AHL and spent the next two months of the campaign bouncing between the AHL and NHL before being granted a loan to the KHL’s CSKA Moscow by early December. After only nine games and less than half a season, the once highly touted prospect flamed out of Ottawa quickly.
Filatov hasn’t been back in the NHL or AHL since his time with the Senators, and in an interview with Sport-Express.ru’s Alexei Shevchenko, the former NHLer talked about his disappointing time in the NHL and said financial troubles played a part in him leaving North America. Though Filatov didn’t offer up numbers, he said he couldn’t repay his debts by playing in the AHL.
“I will not say that I spent days and nights at the roulette table or playing blackjack,” Filatov told Shevchenko. “I went (to the casino), but this is not the worst thing. Just my whole life was a blur. I was young and got a lot of money and (it went away) with ease.”
Filatov told Shevchenko that then-Senators GM Bryan Murray asked the Russian winger to stay with the club at the time of his departure — “(he) treated me very well,” Filatov said — and was told that the Senators believed Filatov could turn his game around. And what might interest Blue Jackets fans who had high hopes for him when he was drafted sixth overall in 2008 is that he seems genuinely upset about how things turned out not just in Ottawa, but Columbus, too.
Asked about Ken Hitchcock, who was Filatov’s coach in his first two NHL seasons, Filatov said those who played under the coach should be happy they got the chance. Filatov recounted a story of how Hitchcock was prouder of Filatov blocking a shot late in a game than the hat trick he had scored in the same game. In the following games, Filatov played eight and 13 minutes, but he said he understands now it was because he stopped playing a two-way game. Filatov added he was once offered a deal by Hitchcock: if the winger played strong defense, Hitchcock would let him roam around the ice on offense.
“It fell on deaf ears,” Filatov told Shevchenko. “(I’m a) forward who can score, do not touch me. Now, I understand that the head coach was doing me a favor.”
Filatov's career hasn't gotten much better outside of North America. Over the past four seasons, Filatov has bounced around the KHL, suiting up for Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, Admiral Vladivostok and Dynamo Moscow before landing in Togliatti. And that’s not even including a nine-game stint with Dynamo Balashikha of the VHL, the KHL’s minor league. Combined, Filatov has scored 41 goals and 91 points in 144 KHL games, but is far from a superstar. He's still hoping he might have another shot, though.
If Filatov can put his game together — and if he can get an NHL club to give him a shot — he might not rule out a return. Filatov said he had previously asked his agent to look for an AHL club that might want to take a shot on him, and failing in the AHL was a risk he was willing to take. It may seem crazy, but who knows. If he has a big year with Lada, maybe there will be someone willing to take that chance.