During my trip to the KHL All-Star Game, I had the chance to speak to
former Columbus Blue Jackets winger Nikita Filatov(notes) (interviewed previously on Puck Daddy, and on loan to the KHL) and Linus Omark, the Edmonton Oilers prospect whose creative penalty shots have been seen all over the world thanks to the Internet.
My conversation with Filatov occurred before the firing of Ken Hitchcock. I am sure that with Hitchcock gone GM Scott Howson will finally get a chance to have his high draft pick to play in the NHL and show what he can really do amongst the best.
His interview follows this one with Omark about the KHL, the NHL and his own abilities.
Q. Before we even start talking about the KHL and the NHL, I have to ask you about that penalty shot. Are you asked about it at all?
OMARK: Not really. No one really asks me about it. I once saw my brother try this shot. He actually did it a couple of times in games. I learned that from him. I saw Pavel Datsyuk(notes) did something similar not long ago. It was great.
Do you watch highlights of your goals on YouTube?
Not every day. I did watch that penalty shot a few times. It's not my favorite though. My brother made a pretty good highlight reel and put it on the Internet. And a friend of mine also has one. Those are my favorite ones.
You are a good prospect and were drafted in the NHL by the Edmonton Oilers. But you decided to come to the KHL. Why?
The main reason was this was a big step up from the Swedish league. I wanted to get a lot more ice time. And I was also offered a pretty good contract. So, I decided to come here. I am very happy that I chose this league. The level of hockey is definitely better here than in Sweden.
I think this is good for the league. They are great players. The more players like that join the KHL, the better it will be.
What do you think about fighting in the KHL? Today I saw quite a few cheap shots. That may be avoided if the KHL regulated fighting.
You get a fine if you fight in the KHL. So, that's bad. Because if you want to fight, you should just do it. 'Let's go!'
As a young kid here in Moscow, how do you spend your free time?
I do a lot! I live together with Leo Komarov and Johan Harju and we go out all the time. We have a lot of fun here. We don't party too much though.
Did you pick up a lot of Russian?
No. It's very hard because they don't use the same letters. But I watch and learn at practices. A lot of guys on our team speak English, like Alexei Zhitnik(notes). So, that's good. Johan Harju and Mattias Weinhandl(notes) speak Swedish. I don't have any problems here.
Do you keep in touch with the Edmonton Oilers?
My agent does. I really can't say anymore.
Will the Edmonton Oilers see you next year?
[Paused and then smiled] We'll see!
Nikita Filatov left the NHL "on loan" to his KHL club CSKA Moscow in mid-November. After arriving in Russia, Filatov was on a roll. It was noticeable to everyone who watched him play in Russia that team coaches trusted him, giving Nikita an opportunity to play a lot of minutes, help out shorthanded and on power play.
Q. You have spent a couple of months in the KHL after leaving Columbus. Can you tell us how things are for you here?
FILATOV: I came over on Nov. 19. So, it's been almost three months now. I have played in 22 games already. I am feeling simply great. I play a lot, get a lot of ice time. I like absolutely everything: The atmosphere, my team. But the most important thing is that I get to play a lot. I simply enjoy playing.
How long did it take you to adjust to the KHL-type game?
I think it only took me about a week or so to readjust. When I just came over our schedule was pretty busy that's why it turned out great. I managed to get the feel, the rhythm pretty well. Don't forget that I also trained here during last summer. And it wasn't that difficult to get used to bigger rinks. It's just I spent all of last season in North America and started this one there. It just took a few games to get used to the style of play here.
You also get to play a lot. So, that's easy.
Of course. I am given a lot of ice time. That's why I feel the game a lot better, I readjust to changes quicker. And I get to play better.
You left from the Russian Superleague and came back to the KHL. Do you see any differences?
I only played about five games in the Superleague. I cannot even compare, because I know very little about how things were in the Superleague.
What about officiating in the KHL? Do refs call everything here?
I wouldn't say that it's too bad. It's not like there are a lot of cheap shots or dirty play every game. Today there was a lot of tension because of the status of the derby. That's why the game was the way it was. Let me tell you that there are tens times more cheap shots in the AHL and NHL than there are here. It's just no one really notices these cheap shots in the AHL, for example, when there are so many senseless fights there. And there are no fights here, that's why you can see everything.
There are fights in the KHL, no? The big brawl from a month ago?
Vityaz is the only team that fights. No other team fights. You see that.
Does a team like this belong in the league?
This is a difficult question. Someone goes to watch them. That means someone is interested in having such a team in the league. So, why not?
I am talking to you and you're all smiles and laughs even though your team lost today. Are you enjoying being here that much?
Why not? This game is done and is in the past, as we were taught in North America. Look, it is all connected - I play a lot, I get lots of ice time and opportunities, I play at home. I only have positive emotions.
Do you follow the NHL?
I do. I follow the league very closely. And not only Columbus. I follow all the teams.