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'Big opportunity' awaits Filatov in Senators camp

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Nikita Filatov has his eyes on a new opportunity with the Ottawa Senators, who obtained the 21-year-old Russian forward in a draft-day trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).

Already, it's become the biggest catchphrase at Ottawa Senators training camp.

But when the words "fresh start" are used, perhaps nobody appreciates their meaning — or the opportunity they signify — than Nikita Filatov. The mercurial 21-year-old Russian forward never truly hit his stride with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team that made him the sixth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. But he's getting a new lease on life in Ottawa with the Senators.

"It's a big opportunity for me," Filatov said after his first day on the Bell Sensplex ice at Senators training camp."If you look on the team, there's lots of young guys and all of them are willing to have a good chance to make the team and show their best game."

That's exactly what head coach Paul MacLean wants to see out of Filatov, who was obtained by Ottawa at the 2011 draft in exchange for a third-round pick. During his days as a Detroit Red Wings assistant, MacLean saw plenty of Filatov and knows there is plenty of potential the Senators can — and need — to unlock for him to be an impact player.

"He's a skilled player," said MacLean, who was pleased with the work ethic Filatov showed on the opening day of camp. "He's a top-six draft pick, he's got high-end skill, he's got high-end speed and he's great with the puck. I'd like to see him maybe have a little more of a nose for the net and be a little more diligent without the puck, but those are things we can teach him."

Now in the last year of his entry level contract, Filatov clearly knows what's at stake this season, especially after the Blue Jackets cut ties with him after seeing him score just six goals and 13 points in 44 games spread over the last three seasons. He's been in Ottawa with some of his new teammates for more than three weeks, working to make the most of the opportunity now being presented to him.

"It was a big part of my preparation for training camp," he said. "I need to know the guys more and feel more at home here — just get to know some places and get into the atmosphere. It was really good I came three or four weeks (before camp). I feel really good now."

Though it's only the first day of on-ice work at training camp, Filatov considered it a "big honour" to skate on a line with veteran centre Jason Spezza and Bobby Butler, who scored 10 goals and 21 points as a Senators rookie last season and is being counted on for more of an offensive spark in 2011-12.

"Those guys are really skilled," said Filatov. "I hope I'm going to be able to match them."

Spezza, for one, believes a new environment in Ottawa might be just what Filatov needs right now.

"I wasn't there in Columbus, the coach wasn't there in Columbus and Bryan (Murray, the Senators' general manager) wasn't there in Columbus," said Spezza. "That's probably the best scenario for him. He's got a fresh start here and if he plays well here, they're going to give him a heck of a chance and if he doesn't, they'll treat him like everybody else who doesn't play well.

"The best thing for (Filatov) is that he's coming to a new organization with guys who don't know him — and we really don't know him. He's got a fresh start and he's come in here with a really great attitude so far. He's worked hard, he's been here early and he's just trying to put his best foot forward."

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