Senators make big splash acquiring Filatov

Nikita Filatov is chased from behind by Kings forward Brad Richardson in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct....

Nikita Filatov is chased from behind by Kings forward Brad Richardson in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct. 25, 2009. Filatov was acquired by the Senators during the 2011 NHL draft. (HARRY HOW/Getty Images/AFP)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:18 PM ET

ST. PAUL, MINN. - On Day 2 of the NHL draft, the Ottawa Senators might have gotten the best player, and all it cost was a third-round draft choice.

On a day that lacked the sizzle of the first round -- not that there weren't some future stars taken in rounds two through seven -- or the blockbuster news that kicked off the first round with the trades of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter out of the Philadelphia, the Senators acquisition of Nikita Filatov from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a third-round pick emerged as the news of the day.

Filatov was picked sixth overall in the 2008 draft, but after making the Blue Jackets' lineup out of training camp under then-coach Ken Hitchcock, his play declined in the regular season. In his post-draft year, he wound up in the American Hockey League, but had a great world junior tournament (11 points in seven games).

In his second year, he wound up going back to Russia to play in the KHL and played in the WJC. At the junior tourney he feuded with coach Vladimir Plyushev, with both blaming each other for Russia's poor performance.

Last season, under coach Scott Arniel, he made the Jackets again, but the same pattern emerged. His play declined when the heavy lifting started and he wound up in the AHL.

Filatov's play was indifferent there (nine goals and 11 assists in 36 games) and the situation with the Blue Jackets had come to this: if he hadn't been traded, which he had requested of GM Scott Howson, he would have returned to Russia to play in the KHL.

"Everybody is intrigued by his skill level. Anybody with with top-end skill like that, teams are always going to be intrigued by that," Hitchcock told QMI Agency. "It always comes down to the time frame. You never know when people are going to mature and play to that level."

The 21-year-old's departure was not mourned in Columbus.

"Great work by Scott Howson to get a 3rd round pick for Filatov #teamsgettingbetter," tweeted Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger.

The tweet was removed shortly after it was posted but its sentiment lingered.

The Senators, in the midst of a serious retooling, wind up with a player with world-class skill who will get an opportunity to play in group of their top-six forwards, maybe even on the first line with Jason Spezza.

It's a move with almost no downside for the Senators. Filatov is in the last year of his entry-level contract.

"I heard that he wasn't happy and they weren't necessarily happy," said Senators general manager Bryan Murray. "I felt it was very worthwhile taking a chance that this young man can come into a team that's hurting for offence and provide some of that.

"There's no risk in this at all. A third round pick, you get a player that maybe four years from now could play to take a shot at a guy who was number six overall. It's a no-lose for us. It's an absolute steal if he plays in the top six and if he can't do that, then somebody else gets that chance to play that role."

Howson said there was some disappointment with the way things turned out.

"There is," he said. "I think Nikita still has a chance to be a very good player in the league. He's a dynamic, gifted player offensively. But I'm a firm believer you've got to move on. I don't want to say it's a mistake. It turned out to be a mistake for us, but Nikita Filatov isn't a mistake. It just didn't work with us. This league is full of players that didn't work in a team or a city or two and found their legs somewhere else. This will be the case here.

"We wanted to move on and try and make our team better because this was not going to work."

Now Filatov gets another chance.

If he plays to his talent, the Senators got the steal of the draft.

If he doesn't, this story will next be written in Russian about some KHL team.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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