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Photo Credit: Jenae Anderson / https://www.accesshockeymi.com/

After disappointing World Junior, GR Griffins’ Filip Zadina wants to move on

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The expectations were high for Filip Zadina.

The first-year pro for the Grand Rapids Griffins represented the Czech Republic in last year’s World Junior Championship, scoring seven goals and adding an assist in eight games to lead his team to a fourth-place finish.

A year later, now drafted No. 6 overall by the Detroit Red Wings and with another year of experience under his belt, the Griffins opted to send Zadina to the tournament to raise his confidence level. The thinking was after playing half of a season with bigger, stronger players in the AHL, he should dominate the World Junior Tournament, which consists of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds.

However, Zadina had a forgettable tournament. He had just one assist in five games, and the Czech Republic fell to the United States in the quarterfinal.

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He returned to Grand Rapids with a bit of a bruised ego. After notching eight goals and nine assists in 27 games for the Griffins before the World Juniors, he was only able to muster a point in the biggest amateur tournament in the world.

But if we’ve learned anything about Zadina in the seven months since the Red Wings selected him in the draft, we know he doesn’t dwell on minor setbacks.

“It wasn’t a step back, but it was like a side step because I wanted to play like junior hockey again,” Zadina told Wings Nation of his World Junior performance. “I just wanted to play good for the national team.”

The old adage is goalies are the ones who need to have horrible short-term memories after giving up a goal. But Zadina’s comments regarding his World Junior performance suggest he’s got the mindset of a goalie who got yanked five minutes into a game.

“It’s gone, and now I just want to focus on Griffins hockey,” Zadina said.

“It’s hockey. One year, I had an unbelievable year; I scored every time when I had a chance. And now, I hit a ton of posts. I just couldn’t score. But I was trying to compete for the team. Like I said, it’s gone, and I just want to be focused for here in Grand Rapids.”

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On Friday night against the Belleville Senators, Zadina had a hand in every Griffins goal, scoring twice and getting the primary assist on the third, as Grand Rapids lost 4-3 in a shootout at Van Andel Arena.

It was the 19-year-old’s first three-point game of his pro career and fourth two-goal game. He now has 10 goals and 10 assists in 29 games.

“I can’t score a hat trick, I guess,” Zadina joked about his four two-goal games.

“It would be pretty cool to score a hat trick first year as a pro. I gotta wait for it.”

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Zadina added: “I feel very good. I felt like I was fine out there today. And the other night, it was kinda tough in Milwaukee, but I still try my best. The goals just came today. I was so glad I could score for the team.”

Griffins coach Ben Simon said he was impressed with Zadina’s performance Friday, noting how well he seems to have moved on from the disappointing World Junior.

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“I thought he was dangerous all night,” Simon said. “I thought he came back. You never know, it’s a different style of hockey in that World Junior Championship. I thought he was a threat all night and was pretty responsible defensively. Encouraging for us to see him come back and get assimilated back to our team quickly.

“I thought he responded well, he’s not hanging his head down. I’m sure he’s disappointed, but we talked about moving forward, and he’s moving forward, and I thought he did a good job.”

Zadina’s first goal came on a great individual effort, as he stole the puck in the offensive zone, made a nice cut to the slot and wristed a shot past Fillip Gustavsson to give the Griffins an early 1-0 lead.

On his second goal, Jake Chelios made a nice cross-ice pass to a wide-open Zadina, who shoveled it in to give the Griffins a 2-1 lead.

Finally, Zadina showed his vision on a 6-on-4 power play, as he made a cross-ice pass to Chris Terry at the top of the right faceoff circle, and Terry one-timed it past Gustavsson to tie the game at 3-3 with just over three minutes left.

Scoring the early goal gave Zadina a ton of confidence for the rest of the night. He was shifty with the puck; he executed a between-the-legs deke coming down the right side in the second period, but his shot was high. Despite missing the shot attempt, players lacking confidence don’t try to execute a move like that.

Once he got that second goal, it was obvious he wanted to complete the hat trick. Every power play, he called for the puck, even if a pass his way wasn’t the best option. In the dying seconds of regulation, he tried one too many stickhandles through a couple of Senators; the puck was poked off of his stick, negating any last-second heroism.

Of course, you don’t like to see a player try to do too much, but it’s also better than a player not willing to take a risk and make the safe play. Like Simon said, Zadina was a threat all night, and that ability to be a threat is why the Red Wings drafted the Czech No. 6 overall after three teams opted to pass on him.

The World Junior tournament wasn’t great, but Zadina isn’t going to let one bad tournament keep him from becoming the player who wants to fill his opponents’ nets with pucks.