Nikita Filatov was the sixth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, and played 13 games in the NHL for the Columbus Blue Jackets this year before leaving for his hometown CSKA Moscow of the KHL. He has 14 points in 12 games in the low-scoring league.
Currently Filatov, who will be 20 in May, is playing for Russia in the 2010 U20 World Junior Championships in Saskatchewan. In November, Team Russia played at the Subway Super Series in Canada and lost all six games. Filatov was not part of that touring team.
HF: Do you think the result at the Super Series can give you a heads-up about the strengths of Team Canada and Team Russia?
NF: Of course not. Only at the World Juniors you can tell about a team’s strength. And even then there’s too many nuances.
HF: Theoretically, Team Canada could have used at these World Juniors Steven Stamkos and John Tavares. Do you think it’s a huge loss for the home team?
NF: I think, everybody understands that Tavares and Stamkos are already world-class players. They are among the leaders of their NHL teams. So, yes, certainly, Team Canada would have looked a lot different if they were here for the World Juniors.
HF: Nevertheless, Team Canada has last year’s worst nightmare for Russia back in the line-up. Do you feel that you have a favor to return to Jordan Eberle?
NF: The only thing that matters to me is to get a higher place than Team Canada, which is the first place. Apart from that I don’t really care about anything.
HF: Do you still remember that goal in the semifinal last year scored five seconds before the buzzer went off?
NF: I most certainly do.
HF: Do you think it’s better to leave such moments in the past or on the contrary relive them and thus get more motivated?
NF: I don’t think you can forget moments such as that one. And I think it’s ok. I mean, vivid moments of our lives always stay in the memory. Unfortunately, not all of those memories are pleasant.
HF: Do you think Team Russia is stronger than it was last year in Ottawa?
NF: We’ll have our answer by January 5, 2010, won’t we?
HF: With Andrei Loktionov getting injured, there are not a lot of centers who could help Team Russia at these World Juniors. Maybe you should get back to center from the left wing?
NF: I play on the left wing and therefore that’s the place (Team Russia head-coach) Vladimir Plyushev has in mind for me. But I’m always ready to play in center, if that’s what my team needs.
HF: You haven’t played at center for a while now. Is it going to be hard to get used to it once again?
NF: (smiles) I’m sure it’s not going to be difficult. I always liked to play center.
HF: This is your fifth appearance at the World Juniors (including twice at the U18 championship). Which one of those past four tournaments do you remember the most?
NF: Every World Championship is special. I know it’s got to be hard to believe but I still remember each and every one of them. Vividly. I remember the final scores, how did the teams play, did I score and get an assist. Every little thing.
HF: You managed to get nine points at three of such championships and last year in Ottawa you set your new personal record with 11 points. Do you think you’re going to beat that this year?
NF: (smiles) We’ll see. I don’t like to predict.
HF: A year ago Team Russia showed its best hockey only in the playoffs. Is it going to be the story this year as well?
NF: This time we got a really good group on our hands. There’s no doubt that it’s the strongest group for us compared to the last two years. Sweden, Finland and Czech Republic have really good teams. So we don’t really have time to start slowly. We’ve got to play well right away.
HF: Does it mean that North American teams will have an advantage in the playoffs?
NF: The only team that is going to have an advantage is the one who will be prepared better than everybody else. It doesn’t matter who you play against at the round robin.
HF: In Ottawa you played at the Scotiabank Place. This year in Saskatchewan it’s not going to be that fancy. Are you going to miss the big crowd?
NF: Our first games in Ottawa we played at the arena with total capacity of 6,500 if I’m not mistaken. So we’re going to get pretty much the same crowd as last year. However, in the playoffs there’s going to be a little less people than in Ottawa due to the arena. But I don’t think there’s going to be a huge difference. It’s still going to be sold out.
HF: Two years ago you lost in the final game 8-0. Last year you were eliminated in the semifinal. Both times it was Team Canada that beat you. Do you think it’s payback time?
NF: It definitely is. We’re going to do our best to win the gold medal this year. Every single guy on our team wants it. And wants it badly.