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|9 октября 2008
Filatov a top talent // The Post-Standard
Columbus' prize rookie will open season with Crunch but may not be here long.
By Lindsay Kramer
Razzle-dazzle rookie forward Nikita Filatov looks like he'll be weaving his way through Syracuse to start the 2008-09 hockey season.
Where he goes from there, neither opposing defensemen nor the Columbus front office can say for sure.
Filatov, the Blue Jackets' No. 1 pick (No. 6 overall) in the 2008 draft,
was assigned to the Crunch on Wednesday. He is an appealing cherry on top
of a heap of talent Columbus seems to have shoveled Syracuse's way.
"He's a fun player to watch," said Chris MacFarland, assistant GM of Columbus. "The puck follows him. He makes plays. He's passionate, and he likes to score. And he thinks the game well. That's why he went sixth overall in the draft."
After the season opener Friday at Rochester, Filatov's future becomes a shift-to-shift proposition. Among the possibilities:
*Columbus could consider him fully prepared for at least spot duty in the NHL, and leave him on the Crunch and available for immediate recalls.
*Filatov is only 18, and a wiry 6-foot, 180 pounds.
He's coming off a minor leg ailment that cost him a couple of weeks of preseason work. If Columbus wants him to put on some bulk and develop against players his own age, it could send him to Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League.
* Columbus can assign him to Sudbury at any time. The catch is that if Filatov plays more than nine games in Columbus or Syracuse this season, the first year of his contract automatically kicks in.
NHL teams are generally loath to start that timer on a prospect who winds up spending much of the year in juniors. So if Filatov is ultimately destined for juniors, it will probably come by the time he's skated in his ninth pro game.
* There's a small monkey wrench in the Sudbury scenario. Filatov is from Moscow. The Canadian Hockey League, the umbrella organization that covers the major junior leagues, usually prefers Russia to give its approval of an NHL team sending a Russian player to juniors ahead of time.
For some reason, Russia has not done that in Filatov's case. So technically, Columbus can't send Filatov to Sudbury yet. MacFarland said there are some issues to hammer out but the gateway should be cleared soon if the Blue Jackets want to go the junior route with their young prize.
All that is clear now is that Columbus is going to put Filatov, and, by extension, the rest of the Crunch, under a strong microscope at the start of the season.
"All we know is he's going to start the year in Syracuse, and see how he does," MacFarland said. "We're going to watch him, and watch him a lot. He's got to get himself in shape, and tiptop shape. What happens after, that's something that's going to be evaluated every week."
The Blue Jackets assigned four other players to Syracuse in their last round of preseason cuts Wednesday. They are defenseman Aaron Rome and forwards Derek Dorsett, Derek MacKenzie and Craig MacDonald.
"Like anything else, everybody likes their group this time of year," MacFarland said. "On paper, there's a good group of character guys, veterans. We're having the Crunch tradition of working hard and competing. It's an interesting mix, for sure, to start."
Lindsay Kramer can be reached at 470-2151 or email@example.com.