Anything is possible with Ken Hitchcock at the helm. As well as Filatov has played this training camp, Hitchcock has a tendency to slowly bring up young players. He does not give his rookies much playing time or give them much responsibility.
However, with the slew of injuries and a changing of the guard in Columbus, Hitchcock may be forced to not only keep Filatov, but give him a lot of offensive opportunity.
If Filatov is cut from the team, would he accept another stint in the AHL? He has already stated that if he gets cut and sent to the AHL this year, he will think about options in the KHL. Was he serious or was he just lobbying for a spot on the big club? Something tells me that it was an empty threat to try and force management’s hand into keeping him in Columbus.
Filatov spent most of 2009 with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. In 39 games, he had 32 points (16 goals). He played eight games for the big club last year and tallied four points—all goals, which included his first career hat-trick against the Minnesota Wild.
Evidently, he did not much time transferring his Russian raised offensive talent to the North American game. There is no question about his offensive upside, but at only 19, can he be counted on to take care of his own end and endure the physicality in the NHL? If he can’t Hitchcock will drastically reduce his time on ice.
Much like the James van Riemsdyk situation in Philadelphia, Columbus will only keep Filatov around if he is on a scoring line and given good minutes. The Blue Jackets do not want to waste a year of his entry level contract on a season that he will spend as a depth forward.
Therefore, if he makes the team, he will be used as a top six forward and expected to regularly contribute offensively. He has spent most of this preseason on the second line wing with Antoine Vermette as his center and Jakub Voracek on the other wing. The trio has looked good playing together. RJ Umberger is an option as the second line center, but has been hurt.
Of all prospects in the NHL, Filatov is the most dynamic goal scorer and has the most potential to be an elite NHL goal scorer. He is part part of the new generation in Columbus led by Rick Nash, who seems like he has been in the league forever, but is still only 25.
Along with Filatov, Voracek, Derrick Brassard, Steve Mason, Kris Russell and recently drafted defenseman John Moore make up one of the most impressive crop of young players in the league.
There is no doubt that Filatov can score in the NHL. The pace he does so is up to how he takes advantage of his opportunities. As mentioned, Hitchcock tends to give younger players less time on ice, but if Filatov comes out hot, he will force Hitchcock into more on ice responsibility.
I fearless forecast 24 goals and 25 assists for 49 points in 70 games (likely to be scratched a handful of games) for Filatov. THN predicts 23-30-53 in 73 games.
In deep leagues, his 49 points makes him watch list-table, and in keeper leagues, he is a must have. He will go through some rookie struggles this year, but if you can afford to be patient with your team, Filatov will pay out HUGE dividends for you as soon as next year.
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