Despite low expectations that even Daniel Alfredsson acknowledged during the team’s 20th Anniversary Launch, what will help make a losing season more palatable for the fans is the play and development of Ottawa’s young players. Ask any fan who endured the first few years of the Senators modern existence. It simply wasn't a lot of fun watching the likes of Dave McIlwain and Phil Bourque play. Perhaps if they had some free flowing mulleted locks like a Darcy Loewen, Mike Peluso or a Sly Turgeon, it could have helped. Nonetheless, it's exponentially more fun to watch young players tease us with the odd flash of brilliance than it is to watch veteran players languish in mediocrity.
Unlike some of his fellow prospects, the one who will be under the most scrutiny is Filatov. Sure, many eyes will cast in the direction of Ottawa’s hyped prospects like Mika Zibanejad, Jared Cowen and David Rundblad but none of these players have arrived in Ottawa having played in the NHL for the past three seasons – that is if you feel inclined to call them seasons – and in desperate need of a clean slate.
Filatov’s inconsistent production (or lack thereof) in a 44 NHL game sample size has prevented him from meeting the lofty expectations that accompanies a player with his offensive skill set. To put this in perspective, he’s played in 6 more NHL games than Bobby Butler.
It’s your prerogative to blame the player or the Blue Jackets and their rich history of shittastic player development but ultimately, both parties must share the blame. Thankfully, from a Senators perspective, it created a situation that necessitated a change of scenery and allowed for the organization to buy low on the high-ceilinged 21-year old that it had done its due diligence on. (Note: While doing some research for this piece, I looked back at some of our older posts on Filatov and came across this post from November 10th, 2010 that mentioned two tweets from Blue Jackets beat writers mentioning the noticeable frequency that Ottawa had scouts in attendance for their games.)
Although there is some inherent risk with Filatov – KHL flight risk? Hello! – as Tim noted in an excellent article back in June, Filatov's off-ice transition thus far has been smooth.
Upon being dealt, he voluntarily left a family vacation in the Dominican Republic to attend a development camp in which his presence was not required. And in the media scrum that followed his first workout, he deftly navigated his way through some inane media questions like, “Is Alexei Kovalev your idol?”
Having recently changed his Formspring account from nikita28 to nikita21, hopefully this will mark the last time that we will see reduction in Filatov’s numbers this season. More than anything, I could do without a buzzkilling Kovalev redux – I don’t want to have to read or listen to people lazily throw around words like ‘enigma’. As an easy target for criticism, I’m crossing my fingers that Filatov fulfills some of his promise early into his Senators career and earns a respite from the baiting media questions and xenophobic Ottawa Valley hyperbole that emanates from the Don Cherry crowd.
Count me amongst those who are confident that Filatov can flourish in the nation’s capital. I spent a small portion of my morning watching Filatov’s goal videos over at NHL.com and found myself nodding my head in approval. He has the wheels and the hands to be a productive NHL player and I have to believe that the Senators will give him every opportunity to play on one of team’s top two lines.
CBS Sports’ Fantasy News shares my optimism that Filatov can find his way – projecting 21 goals and 23 assists. If he approaches these totals, I would consider that to be a success. With an aging Alfredsson and the uncertainty enshrouding Peter Regin’s utility, someone is going to have to step up and take the offensive pressure off of Jason Spezza. A forty-plus point season out of Filatov would be a great start.