19 games into the 2020-21 season and winger Filip Zadina still looks like a kid that is experimenting with all the tools he possesses. Still just 21 years old, he hasn’t quite figured out the best way to utilize these tools, but he still has time.
The sixth pick of the 2018 draft hasn’t blown anyone away this season with just eight points to his name this season. His Corsi percentage is an unflattering 42.1% even though he starts just over 55% of his shifts in the offensive zone. The puck is typically heading the wrong direction when he’s on the ice, which plays a big role in his overall point total. Despite this, there are still plenty of reasons to maintain a sense of hope regarding this player.
Zadina was drafted to become a difference-maker in the offensive zone. His draft year scouting report had him labeled as a David Pastrnak-type that could find a hundred different ways to put the puck in the net. That was only exacerbated when he famously promised to “fill their nets with pucks”, referring to the teams that passed on him in the draft. With just 26 points through 56 games in the NHL, you could forgive some fans for feeling a bit duped by a player that was once the Red Wings’ top prospect. If his most recent showing is any indication, however, then we may be just around the corner from seeing him take the next step in his development.
March 4 Against the Carolina Hurricanes
The “Svechnikov Bowl” was somewhat overshadowed by the play of Zadina. Nobody scored more goals or shots than the Czech winger, and only Hurricanes center Jordan Staal recorded more points, though six other players from Carolina tied his two points. In just over 17 minutes of ice time, the youngest player on Detroit’s roster was a threat almost every time he was on the ice. His second goal, in particular, really showed off the kind of threat that he can pose to opposing goaltenders.
Despite those *not pretty* jerseys, this goal was an absolute beauty.
Zadina’s strong performance wasn’t just about goals, though. Per Natural Stat Trick, he had a Corsi percentage of 51.7%, including a relative Corsi of 5.6%, meaning that he increased the Red Wings’ share of offensive chances by 5.6%. He has consistently been a drain on possession, but in this game (along with a few others) he not only improved Detroit’s possession, but he was able to do something with that time on attack. In fact, with his two goals on this night, he solidified the most productive five-game stretch that he has enjoyed this season with two goals and four points in that time span.
Zadina’s Next Step
We’ve seen this on multiple occasions now. Zadina had a strong start to this season that saw him put his playmaking abilities on display. Prior to this season, he had effectively earned a spot with the Red Wings due to his play following a November call-up. He had 15 points in 28 games, and even though his season was cut short due to an injury and the pandemic, “Hockeytown” had every reason to be excited about this kid heading into this season. We know he has the ability to be the Red Wings’ best player on a given night. The next step for him is to do it on a regular basis.
It’s not enough to go off for five games and then disappear for 10. Zadina knows this, and you can see the look of frustration on his face when things aren’t going his way. The Red Wings have too many streaky players as it is; there is a strong argument to be made that a lack of consistency from their top players is what has held this team back from being more competitive in the NHL. A player that arrived with the promise to “fill nets with pucks” is going to be under immense pressure to make good on that promise because of the team’s lack of consistency.
One promising development has been Zadina’s willingness to use his shot more and more as the season has gone on. Through his first five games this season, he had just five shots. Through this most recent five game stretch, he had 16. With 38 shots on the season, he’s averaging two shots a game; while his willingness to slow the game down and look for the open man is a good thing and a needed development in his game, his best asset has always been his shot. Throwing the puck on net seems to help him get in his groove, so if he’s going to make an impact night-in and night-out, it’s going to start by him giving himself a chance to score.
Building Block of the Red Wings’ Future
Zadina’s potential is a bit of a hot topic. Some have him pegged as a line-driving winger like Pastrnak. Others have him labeled as a top six winger that needs to be surrounded with talent in order to make a real impact. Chances are that he’s somewhere in between, but the fact remains that he’s a player that the Red Wings would like to count on as an important part of their rebuild. In order for that to come to fruition, he has to keep taking steps forward.
Luckily, Zadina is still just 21 years old. He should still have another level or two to his game. The trick now is making sure that he can reach those levels. If he can, we should begin to see more efforts like the one he had against the Hurricanes on a consistent basis – and that would be as fun as it sounds. If he can’t, however, he’ll join a growing list of frustrating Red Wing forwards that have all the potential in the world but can’t put it together.
Zadina has the tools. That important next step is putting them all together into one game-changing kit.
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