OTTAWA - Nikita Filatov has already had some memorable moments at Scotiabank Place.
It's where, in 2008, he was drafted into the NHL and, in 2009, he was a star at the world junior championship.
Now 2011 is on the list. Particularly, June 29: His first visit to the arena as a Senator.
Thirty months before Wednesday, Filatov stood in the SBP hallways and figured "maybe God was with Canada" after he and his comrades were eliminated from gold-medal contention by the home county - thanks largely to Jordan Eberle's dramatic tying goal with 5.4 seconds left on the clock.
The highly-touted 21-year-old Russian is now on one of God's squads, and so elated that he is letting bygones be bygones with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team that drafted him sixth overall three years ago, then dumped him for a paltry third round pick.
"I just woke up, checked the Internet and became a little bit more happy," the wildcard winger said when asked how he learned about the trade and why he thought one was necessary. "I felt I could see a new start for me and it's a new opportunity, so I'm not really thinking about what happened before. I just still feel ambitions and confident. I'm just ready to go and prove I know what to do now."
Over three seasons with Columbus, Filatov played just 44 games and scored six goals -- including a hat trick against Minnesota -- to go along with seven assists. Ridiculously low totals for someone with such offensive talent. Why? He's not saying.
Reportedly unhappy at the lack of opportunity he was getting with the Blue Jackets, Filatov was likely headed for a KHL career in his homeland unless he was moved. Despite the numerous opportunities he was given to throw stones at this old team, he wouldn't shed any light on the problems, however. He even stated how much he learned from former coach Ken Hitchcock, who he says helped him with his defensive game.
The rest of the hockey world has a different perception.
"Coach and player didn't get along, looking from the outside in, as we all have done because we weren't there," surmised Senators assistant GM Tim Murray. "I know there was a bit of a groin problem at one time. He didn't go to them and tell them about the groin, as young players do because they want to make it ... and he got sent to the minors and nothing good happened for him. He admittedly didn't play well in the minors. The groin was bothering him.
"Sometimes these situations happen where it's not the right fit," added Murray, who called it a "no-brainer" for the Senators to give up the draft choice for a player with so much potential. "We're hoping that's the case."†
Murray says Filatov has been made just one promise by the Senators -- work hard and you'll get every chance to be a front-line player.
"I don't see any problems off the ice," said Murray. "I know there were a couple of guys that were around Ottawa at one time, that there were off-ice problems .. (that) they were in this organization, (that) they were Russian ... but he is not that type of guy. He's a young guy, he's got a high skillset and we just want him to come in here and work hard. If he works hard, I believe good things will happen."
Filatov was so excited for his "new start" that he left a vacation with his family just to spend a couple of days getting acquainted with the Senators. He'll rejoin the clan in the† Dominican Republic Friday.
"I just learned a lot from my mistakes before," Filatov said of his career. "I kind of know what to do better what to improve and how not to make other mistakes."
"Mostly just little details, like work ethic, discipline, all this stuff," he said. "I'm getting older and getting more experienced, just learning how to kind of listen and get the right information from the people (in charge.)"
Filatov does concede that, at 18, he might not have been ready for the NHL. There's a lot to learn off the ice, and a lot to learn on it for a guy whose previous focus was only to score goals.†
Asked about the state of his defensive game, Filatov smiled.
"I really think I improved it a lot," he said. "So we're just going to see if the coach here is happy with it."
At the end of the day, however, his job will be to put the puck in the net. With the 29th ranked offence last season, the Senators don't have enough guys that can.
"I was on vacation and tried to slow down the situation," Filatov said when asked why it took him four days to make a comment on the trade. "The people were trying to get interviews and ask me some questions and I kind of ignored it. I wasn't really ready to say much about it. There's going to be more to say. There's going to be games and training camp."
And a few memorable goals, the Senators hope.