Russians Worth the Risk?: NHL Draft Time Could Prove Answer

Ken ArmerSenior Writer INovember 19, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 24:  Nikita Filatov #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets looks on against the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center on October 24, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

With Blue Jackets prospect Nikita Filatov skipping the country to return to native Russia to play in the KHL, does it serve as an example of a growing problem in the NHL?

It could be that Filatov is an isolated incident, and merely a player incapable of understanding he needs further development and growth to compete at the NHL level, but with draft rankings already coming out for the summer will it hurt Russian prospects? Most likely.

American and Canadian players have no back up option really, I suppose they too could skip off to the failing KHL but there seems to be a difference in the image of hockey between North America and Russia.

I learned of all this thanks to the ever genius Ken Campbell of The Hockey News , but there were some things he skipped over that I feel are important. Campbell made the point Filatov will play in the KHL for $800,000 (his NHL salary) when had he chosen to play in the AHL it would have been $65,000. To quote Campbell "Hard to argue with that kind of logic."

Truthful, but Campbell almost seems to pat the ever child-like Filatov on the butt. We're talking about a kid, regardless of his nation of origin who wants to be an NHL star yet is unwilling to do the hard work to make it happen. I say let him fail, and be stuck in the failing KHL.

Problem is, did Filatov, and a rare few other Russian's who couldn't take the heat of being told they weren't the next Ovechkin their first day in camp and skip back home ruin it for the others?

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Maybe, but the problem becomes do they deserve it...

While Filatov clearly appears to be a baby, who couldn't take the pressure of playing with the big boys, or take the criticisms of bench boss Ken Hitchcock, opted for the less successful and stressful KHL—not all players are willing to cry rather than step up to the challenge.

Imagine Alex Ovechkin if he had been told he needed more work and development. Judging by his personality, he would have gone to the AHL, recorded amazing numbers, and busted his butt to get into the NHL. So clearly not all Russian's are to blame, or can be grouped together like Nakita Filatov or Nikolai Zherdev before him.

While many GM's come draft time will possibly be more watchful of Russian players, many already likely look for a player with talent and the personality to take the stresses of development. Being Russian, Canadian, or even Chinese wouldn't matter to these guys, and all will fall under the same scrutiny to general manager eyes.

As the prospect rankings proceed on with the NHL year, the Russian players would be dumb to think such news doesn't hurt their ratings, or marketability, but if their talent and personality show they're not the cry-baby types some of their countrymen are and more like Alexander Ovechkin—who overcomes every challenge—they shouldn't have any problems making it into the league and developing into the superstars they hope to be.

As for Filatov, and those who can't take the heat? They should be barred from the best hockey league in the world, and forced to be labeled as the hack's they are. If you're not willing to do the work, don't waste a GM, team, or fan's time.

Ken Armer is a Community Leader for the NHL  and the Dallas Stars for Bleacher Report. He also covers the  Anaheim Ducks   for SoCalSportsHub.com and covers the Texas and Dallas Stars for Hockey54.com. He can be contacted at karmer@bleacherreport.com.

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