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KHL » Nikita Filatov: “Returning to Russia was my idea”

Nikita Filatov:

Nikita Filatov: “Returning to Russia was my idea” (Photo © Associated Press)

Nikita Filatov had an interview with eurosport.ru website in which he talked about his return, his opinion about his path towards the NHL and about his future.
RussianHockeyFans.com offers you a translation of the most interesting questions and answers.

– How do you feel after the fly through ocean and within Russia?
– Well, not bad. I’m adapting gradually. They say that the hardest thing is fly towards East. I landed from America and then at once even farer: Chelyabinsk, Ekaterinburg, Magnitogorsk. I was in Moscow for the last time on September 8th.

– Was it hard getting to the games?
– Nothing special. I knew all the guys and it helped me. When I met the team I wasn’t familiar only with a couple of guys. It was easy to adapt to the group. If we talk about the physical adaptation, that was harder. I arrived in Moscow on Tuesday (November 19th) and on Friday I was already on ice for my first match in Chelyabinsk.

– After the first match you wrote me that hockey here is fun. Why?
– Many things are organized in a different way. In America the rinks are a lot smaller. And thus the game is tougher, more aggressive. There is less space to show your worth. Here it’s like playing at the airport. There is a lot of space and at first I wasn’t used to.
When I arrived here, I didn’t think about which kind of hockey I could find. The game and the rules are always the same. But now after some games I feel some differences. Not that the level is different. Simply that hockey here is a little different, firstly because of the bigger rinks size. And also that here hockey isn’t played roughly, while in the NHL it is.

– Your return was rather unexpected. On Thursday, November 17th the Columbus Dispatch informed about your loan to CSKA and after two days you were already on ice. Is it worth for guys aged 18-19 move from the KHL to the NHL? Try to reply not according to your own experience, but in general.
– I think that we should use a case-by-case approach. Any player has his story and is a different individual. You should understand who drafted him and where he wants to go. It’s also really important consider where he was playing before leaving, if he was riding the pine in the KHL or playing in the MHL. Someone would need a stint in the AHL, like me.
I’ve spent half of the first year in the AHL and half in the NHL. It was really useful for me playing in the AHL. Someone else would say that playing for the farm is a very bad thing, but in fact it helped me a lot.

– And what would it be better for a young player: trying improving in the KHL or fly overseas towards the NHL?
– To each his own. I tried hard there and I don’t think I was disappointing. Many would agree that I played well. I made a good job of my chances, when I got them and I progressed. This is why I don’t think my return is a step backwards. It’s just a change of direction.

– And when you understood that it was time for a change?
– It was at the start of this season, after some five games. It was already clear that the coach wouldn’t give me a chance. I had high expectations when I arrived there. I was sure that all would have been going in the way I wanted to. They were judging well my skills, I was scoring and I was simply playing well. But since then my playing time constantly decreased.

– This is strange, I think.
– Exactly. And when some injuries arisen within the team I thought that the situation would change, that finally my chance arrived. But the situation hasn’t changed and all just went on like before.

– During the draft you could have ended up in Toronto or with the Islanders…
– Of course, I’ve thought about that and about what it would have been if i was there. Also considering that many 20-year guys are already playing twenty minutes a night there. Of course I think about it and it makes me feel bad.

– What did you think when you scored a hat-trick? You probably hoped to earn Hitchcock’s trust and it turned out to be the other way around.
– Yes. After scoring the hat-trick I didn’t understand what was going on as I did something unreal! Then I spent the next week with the Blue Jackets and was sent down to the AHL. It’s hard to comment on that situation, it was a real shock for me. I thought that the hat-trick would change something, hoped that they would keep me in the main team for the rest of the season. But in a week they sent me back. Now it’s not a big deal for me, after all I was only 18 back then. But even during this season the coach kept telling me “You are just 19, why hasten?”. And I thought: “And when I will be 20 next season, will he tell me the same?”

– You said that before the draft you had a one-hour talk with the Blue Jackets and Hitchcock. What did you think of him then? Was it similar same to what you saw when you joined the Blue Jackets later?
– I can’t say that something went wrong between me and him. We always talked, he gave me advice. I really learned a lot thanks to Hitchcock. At least playing in defence, that’s for sure. Maybe we have different views on hockey and my development. He thinks that I should not rush things, that I should play for the farm team for some time. But I think everything can be done faster.

– In an interview with Sport Express, Oleg Tverdovsky said that Canadian coaches “have a game plan. They’ll give you five minutes, if you score three goals in five shifts you’re going to sit on the bench anyway. The plan for them is the law. Players are just pawns. There is only one way to get out of this situation, ask for a trade”. What’s your opinion on the matter?
– I’d agree with him. It depends from which role you want for you and how you can perform. If a player from the fourth line or a tough guy would score three goals, then he won’t get in the second line on the next game. That’s because in the coach’s eyes he remains a fourth line player and should play six minutes a game. This is what happened to me. Though they didn’t plan to trade me to another team. The general manager wanted to see if I could score more.

– Who had the idea to send you to the KHL?
– It was an idea of mine. I want to play, and to play a lot. And I also wanted to get into team practice exactly with CSKA. I haven’t thought a lot to other variants, CSKA is my home and I spent there 13 years. Here I know everyone and thus this variant is the best one. It was easy to get around here and I started to play as soon as I arrived.
There were no difficulties, it wasn’t like when I first left in 2008. Now I dealt with the new management and we were all happy.

– In five months you’ll have to come back to Columbus. Could you decide to remain in Russia anyway?
– I’m practically sure that I will come back, but not to the hundred percent. Now I don’t want to claim anything. The first time I left for the USA I didn’t thought to return, especially so quickly. Thus I won’t say anything about the next season.

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