Blue Jackets European prospects 2009-10 review

By Chris Roberts

The Columbus Blue Jackets have just four prospects playing in Europe – and one of them is top prospect Nikita Filatov.

Nikita Filatov, LW – CSKA Moscow (KHL)

6’0, 185lbs
1st round, 6th overall, 2008

Filatov has been producing as well as the Blue Jackets had anticipated he would this season – just not for the team they had hoped.

Since venturing back to Russia to play in the KHL, Filatov has been one of the most impressive players for his club, CSKA Moscow. Due to spending two months in Columbus, Filatov played significantly fewer games than his Moscow teammates, though he finished fourth in team scoring and led the team in points per game. The 19-year-old capped off the regular season by scoring nine times in 26 games, while adding 13 assists. His play in the KHL has certainly advanced the thought that he belongs in a top-six scoring role on the Blue Jackets in order to be utilized effectively.

His future with the Blue Jackets is still in question, and despite CSKA Moscow taking an early exit from the playoffs, Filatov will not finish the season in Columbus. It is even uncertain if he’ll make his return next season, with reports varying. One thing that’s certain is that Filatov has the potential to be a dynamic, perhaps game-changing winger, and if he is to make a return to the Blue Jackets next season, he’ll need to be placed in a position to succeed – a top-six role.

Anton Blomqvist, D – Malmö (Allsvenskan)

6’5, 201lbs
6th Round, 167th overall, 2009

After spending much of the year with Malmö’s junior team last season, Blomqvist made the jump to the pro team this season and has impressed with steady defensive play. What’s even more impressive is the fact that at just 20, Blomqvist has become an important part of Malmö’s blue line in a league dominated by older players. He had been labelled as somewhat inconsistent while playing in the junior ranks, but has been able to step up considerably upon being promoted to the men’s team – a great sign when evaluating young players. Blomqvist finished the season with just five points in 49 games, but it’s his defensive positioning and physical play in his own end that is impressive for the towering 6’5 defenseman. Blomqvist may come to North America to finish his season with Syracuse of the AHL, but it is likely that he’ll spend at least one more season in Sweden honing his craft.

Andrei Plekhanov, D – Moscow Dynamo (KHL)

6’2, 194lbs
3rd Round, 96th overall, 2004

Plekhanov spent the 2009-10 season with Moscow Dynamo of the KHL, scoring two goals and adding an assist in a total of 24 games. He spent two full seasons with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, but after failing to crack the Blue Jackets roster, it appears that Plekhanov may have settled in Russia for the time being. Many Europeans have been known to give the NHL a final shot later in their careers, however, so it may be too soon to stop considering Plekhanov as part of the Blue Jackets’ future.

Kirill Starkov, C – Timrå (Elitserien)

6’0, 194lbs
6th Round, 189th overall, 2005

Starkov is another player who appears to have given hockey in North America a shot, but has settled back in his native country. The 22-year-old found himself shuffled between teams in the 2007-08 season, spending time with the Youngstown Steelhounds of the CHL, Elmira Jackals of the ECHL, and Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. He played just nine games with Syracuse the following season before finishing the season in the KHL. After playing for four teams in the previous two seasons however, Starkov managed to find himself a full-time role with Timrå in his native country of Sweden. He recorded just four points in 55 games, and it is unlikely that Starkov makes a return to North America any time soon.