Red Wings 2019-20 Player Review: Filip Zadina

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It’s week five of our Detroit Red Wings player reviews and this week, we take our last look at players who played for the Red Wings this season. The first four weeks, we took a look at guys who started the season with the team and were already established NHL players. However, a team needs exciting prospects as well when they’re a growing team. Maybe the most exciting of those prospects is Filip Zadina.

Red Wings fans were excited when they had the sixth overall pick in 2018. It was the highest pick the team had since they took Keith Primeau third overall in 1990. However, fans were left polarized when the team took Zadina over University of Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes. Zadina was the higher rated prospect and it was a shock he fell that far. But Red Wings fans saw a group of defensemen in Detroit that was the oldest in the league and in dire need of some young talent.

However, the more people saw what Zadina could do, the more excited Hockeytown became. There’s a reason he was projected as a top-five pick heading into the draft and the polarization quickly turned into excitement. Let’s look at what made Zadina a top-five draft prospect, how he looked this season and what’s to come for the Czech sniper.

He can bring the goals

Filip Zadina played just one year of Canadian juniors before being drafted into the NHL and boy, what a year it was. The Czech winger played for the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL where he led them to a fourth place finish in the regular season. He finished tied for third in the league with 44 goals in 57 games. He also added 38 assists to show he could dish the puck as well. However, it was his sniping capabilities that garnered draft attention.

He was shockingly passed on by the Montreal Canadiens who had the third overall pick. Almost everyone had him written down in Sharpie to go to Montreal, but they passed on him for Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Then the Ottawa Senators passed on him. And then the Arizona Coyotes did as well. Just like that, the best pure goal scorer in the draft fell in the lap of the Red Wings who had a choice to make: take the elite sniper or the elite, puck-moving, local defenseman. They went with the former and Zadina was a Red Wing.

That night, Zadina would give an interview that had everyone talking. He talked about filling the nets of the teams that passed on him. It was the type of fire that helped Red Wings fans who questioned the pick turn the corner. They just added an angry sniper to their team who couldn’t believe who was picked before him. He followed that up with another interview with one quote that had Red Wings fans excited.

Zadina started his first season in Grand Rapids. While most thought he would have a one-way ticket to Detroit very quickly, it wasn’t the hot start he hoped for. He had goals in just three of his first 17 games. Eventually, the hot streak everyone expected came as he earned a short stint in the NHL. Things were looking promising for the Czech winger as we headed into 2019-20.

Zadina starts to “Fil” up the nets

Much like in the previous season, Zadina started 2019-20 in Grand Rapids. He got off to another slow start with just one point in the first six games. However, Zadina would find his legs much sooner than in 2018-19 and go on a hot streak. In his last 15 games in Grand Rapids, he had 15 points as he earned that ticket to Detroit that would last him the rest of his season.

It took Zadina a little bit to get going offensively. He got the call up due to Anthony Mantha‘s first injury and the team went on a cold streak without their top scorer. When he did get going, it was his playmaking skills that started to shine with five assists in five games. But fans wanted to know when Fil was going to “bring the goals”. Eventually, he did and when he brought the goals, they belonged on a highlight reel.

The biggest of these goals came in a game against the team who passed on him, the Montreal Canadiens. With the game tied at three and less than four minutes to play, he did exactly what he said he would do to the teams who passed on him. He filled their net.

The goal was the first game-winning goal of his career and what better team to do it against than the team that passed on him. It was one of the biggest moments of the season for Detroit as it was part of their three-game sweep of the Habs. Zadina would continue to play well and had his first career multi-goal game against the Minnesota Wild on January 22nd.

A great rookie year comes to a halt

Unfortunately, just two games later, Zadina’s season would come to an end. The team played a home-and-home with the New York Rangers and he would suffer a lower-body injury in the first of these games. He managed to play through it in the second game, but that would be the last game he played.

The team was trying to ease him back into things but had intended to send him down so he could participate in the AHL playoffs. However, with him still injured, they weren’t able to send him down by the deadline for him to be eligible. That didn’t end up mattering as COVID-19 cancelled the remainder of the AHL season. If the NHL season does come back, Zadina would be healed and capable of playing for the team. If it doesn’t, it was a solid, albeit short, rookie campaign for the youngster.

How many goals can Zadina bring?

As I said, it was a good rookie year for Zadina. He played in just 28 games for the Red Wings, but he did have 15 points. He finished fourth on the team in power play goals and was fifth in points per game. The way he came on strong to end his shortened season was promising. He played over 20 minutes in two of his final three games of the season as head coach Jeff Blashill gave him a bigger role in the team.

This now leads to the big question: how good can Zadina be in Detroit? In a previous article, I mentioned that Anthony Mantha is the best chance to be Detroit’s first 40 goal scorer since 2009. If anyone is gonna challenge him for that, it’s Zadina. His shooting abilities are unmatched by anyone else on the team. No one can pick a corner the way he does and his instincts to find the puck became much more noticeable when he played full time with the other top forwards.

As for his contract situation, he’s still on his rookie deal with two years remaining. This makes him one of the few forwards that are currently under contract for next season. Based on how 2019-20 ended, you can expect him to be in Detroit all next year. With a full season of playing with other top forwards, I expect Filip Zadina to be the Red Wings breakout star next season. He certainly can bring the goals, so look for him to do that in 2020-21 and beyond.

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Riley McPherson is a 27-year-old writer from Southwest Michigan. She won 3 Student MAB awards while attending Grand Valley State University as both a radio broadcaster and sports anchor. She is a fan of Detroit sports, the University of Michigan and is a big Premier League and Aussie Rules football fanatic. She also hosts her own Michigan sports podcast called Great Lakes Sports Takes.