Unsurprisingly enough, Filip Zadina topped our Top 25 list of Detroit Red Wings’ prospects. The 19-year-old was considered a consensus top-three pick during the 2018 draft, where he was highly touted as a 200-foot player who showcases explosive offensive abilities.
He showed flashes of offensive brilliance in his first pro season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, but he’ll have to have an impressive camp to give general manager Steve Yzerman a reason to keep him on the Red Wings roster.
Drafted: 1st round, sixth overall in 2018
Weight: 195 lbs
Birthday: November 27, 1999 (19 years old)
Latest team: Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
Zadina played for his hometown Pardubice, Czech Republic, before making the jump to North America. He spent two years (2015-17) in the Czech Extraliga, scoring just one goal and adding one assist over 27 games.
During the 2017-18 season as a 17-year-old, he played for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, where he absolutely dominated the competition. He scored 44 goals and added 38 assists for 82 points in 57 games — which led all rookies — and added five more goals and seven more assists in nine playoff games.
Surprisingly, three teams passed on Zadina in the 2018 draft, and the Red Wings were able to select him at No. 6. He famously vowed to fill the Montreal Canadiens’ and Ottawa Senators’ nets with pucks after they opted to take Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Brady Tkachuk, respectively.
After a confusing summer of 2018, where nobody seemed to be able to figure out if Zadina’s Czech league team had loaned him to his QMJHL team, the NHL eventually ruled he was on loan, which allowed him to start the season in the AHL rather than go to the NHL or back to juniors.
With the Griffins, Zadina experienced his fair share of ups and downs. He scored his first two goals in his third professional game and had four points in his first six games, but then he went on stretches of inactivity.
His AHL season briefly was interrupted when he represented the Czech Republic in the World Junior Championship. After helping the Czech finish fourth in 2018, where he scored seven goals and added an assist in eight games, he had just one assist in five games in 2019, as the Czech lost to the United States in the quarterfinal.
He returned to Grand Rapids determined to put the poor performance behind him. He started slow, notching three points in his first eight games back. But he then proceeded to score 11 points in his next 10 games.
In February, he earned a nine-game call-up to the Red Wings, where he recorded his first NHL goal and added two assists. Upon returning to the Griffins, he had just four points in his final 14 regular season games. He salvaged that poor performance a bit in the playoffs, scoring three points in five games. But all three points came in one game.
As stated earlier, Zadina was regarded as a highly explosive winger who can hold his own defensively, as well. We didn’t quite see that in Grand Rapids, but he did show flashes of brilliance. Of course, making the jump from junior to minor league hockey is a big leap. Players go from playing against kids their own age to playing experienced veterans who are also faster and stronger. It’s not uncommon for a player who dominated in the junior leagues to struggle in his first AHL season — look no further than Anthony Mantha.
Zadina was projected as a top-line scoring winger, and he still could live up to that potential. But it is clear after one pro season that Zadina will need help in order to produce offensively. He will not be able to carry a line on his own, he will need Dylan Larkin, Valtteri Filppula or another playmaker setting him up in order to succeed. Having AHL-caliber linemates in Grand Rapids no doubt contributed to Zadina’s struggles.
Like I said earlier, many players struggle in their first pro season, and Zadina’s lack of success doesn’t mean he should be labeled a bust.
While I wouldn’t be upset should Zadina have an excellent camp and make the Red Wings, I think another year in Grand Rapids would be better for his development. The Red Wings aren’t pushing for a playoff spot this season, so there’s no rush to bring him up to the NHL.
After a 15-18—33 stat line in 62 games during his first season in Grand Rapids, Mantha improved on that with a 21-24—45 stat line in 60 games. Then he proceeded to score 10 points in his first 10 games the following season and earned full-time status as a Red Wing.
Zadina could follow a similar pattern. If he improves on his offense this season, he could see another call-up with the Red Wings late this season or early next season.
Zadina had the entire summer to bulk up after his first pro season, which should help him from getting pushed around by older, stronger players.