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Rambler's Top100

20 июня 2008 года. 
Small Russian making a big impression; Blue Jackets and Islanders covet Filatov //  National Post

Pat Hickey

OTTAWA - There was a definite North American feel to the guest list as the National Hockey League invited 12 top prospects to lunch yesterday.

Eleven of the players were from Canada or the United States while the 12th was a Russian who has his sights set on becoming a North American.

His name is Nikita Filatov and, at a time when NHL teams are wary about drafting Russians, he will be one of the early picks in the first round tonight at Scotiabank Place.

"I don't know where I'll be picked but I hope in the top 10," the 18-year-old from Moscow said in flawless English.

The scuttlebutt is that he won't have to wait that long -- the New York Islanders (fifth overall) and Columbus, with the sixth pick, both have Filatov high on their list.

His situation is in marked contrast to that of Alexei Cherepanov, who was the top-rated European forward in last June's draft.

Teams shied away from Cherepanov because there is currently no agreement between the NHL and the Russian Federation and he slipped to No. 17 before he was selected by the New York Rangers.

He spent the past season playing for Omsk in the Russian Elite League.

"The 17th-best player in the draft last year wasn't Alexei Cherepanov," said E. J. McGuire, the director of the NHL's Central Scouting Service.

"He was much better than that but teams were afraid to take a chance on him. It will be a few years before we'll be able to say that the Rangers made a great pick or they wasted a pick because he never came over here."

There's no similar concern about Filatov.

"My dream has been to play in the NHL since I was 11 or 12 years old," said Filatov. "The NHL has the best players and that's where I want to be."

And, while Filatov believes that he will be ready to play in the NHL in the fall, he has made it clear that he's willing to play major junior hockey next season if that's what his NHL team wants him to do.

The lack of an agreement with the Russian Federation isn't an impediment because Filatov is basically a free agent.

His contract with CSKA, the once-proud Central Army team, is over and he is free to leave.

He's a skilled forward who can play either left wing or centre but there are some concerns about his strength. He's a slight 172 pounds on a six-foot frame and acknowledges he has to become stronger.

"I'll have a few months to work on that in the summer," he said.

"I know I will also have to adjust to the game in North America."

The one adjustment he won't have to make is learning a new language. While many Russians struggle in English when they first arrive in the NHL, Filatov said he's been speaking the language since he was a toddler. He was introduced to English by his mother, who is a language teacher.

"She has done so many things for me and teaching me English was one of them," said Filatov.

"I don't have a lot of chances to practise in Russia but I use it when I go to tournaments."

There was a time, said Filatov when his French was almost as good as his English but he said yesterday that he has forgotten much of what he learned.

But he showed the kind of determination that has made him a top prospect when a Montreal TV reporter asked him if he could answer a few questions on camera in French.

"I'll try," said Filatov, "but could you make the questions easy?"

Страничка Никиты Филатова на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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