Red Wings Must Find a Way to Maximize Filip Zadina’s Potential

Filip Zadina was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings sixth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft and was expected to be a strong top-six forward and consistent goal-scorer when he made it to the NHL. Unfortunately, this expectation has not been met in his four seasons as a Red Wing. In the 2021-22 season alone, he seems cursed or maybe it’s just bad luck, following him around on the ice.

Related: Red Wings: What’s Wrong With Filip Zadina?

Zadina is a talented young member of the Red Wings roster, but he is simply falling short of what was expected of him. Going into the 2018 NHL Draft, he was described as a player with an elite shot, strong skating skills, and the ability to make crucial plays. What was especially notable about him was his shot release.

Zadina Has Struggled to Produce Consistently

As the 2021-22 Red Wings’ season is drawing to a close, Zadina has put 145 shots on goal with a 6.9 shooting percentage (as of April 18). With 10 goals and 22 points through 71 games, it has been his longest and most productive NHL season in terms of totals. Last season, though, he played in 49 games and had 19 points (six goals and 13 assists), which is nearly as many points as he has put up in the longer 2021-22 season.

Filip Zadina Detroit Red Wings
Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Zadina sometimes struggles with decision-making that can make or break his chances to get pucks on net. Most notably, he tends to hold on to the puck for a little too long, which not only throws off a potential scoring chance but can also result in sloppy passes, forced turnovers, and loss of possession. This season, he has 29 turnovers, a reflection of these spur-of-the-moment decision-making issues.

“High-end skilled forward with excellent playmaking ability. He has very good vision, excellent anticipation and exceptional natural instincts. Possesses strong puck skills, a quick, accurate release, and looks to shoot. He is committed to playing a two-way game.”

-NHL Central Scouting

It is clear that he has been struggling. Zadina has performed below expectations in nearly all areas on the stat sheet. With 14.5 expected goals on the season and only 10 to show for it, he isn’t far below expected at this point compared to a month or so ago. In the last 10 games, he has three points (two goals and one assist), which may not be a lot, but it is good to see him reestablishing some consistency.

When Zadina scores, Red Wings fans talk about it. In the Apr. 14 game against the Carolina Hurricanes, he was alone in the offensive zone and got off a wrist shot through a defensive screen. He not only played around the defense, but he caught the goalie off guard, which gave him the game-winning goal in a 3-0 victory. This goal is a prime example of his special shot release and just how naturally he is able to find the back of the net in certain circumstances. Hopefully, there will be more goals like this in the near future.

Maximizing Zadina’s Potential Moving Forward

There is no one way to solve an underperformance issue, but there are simple ways to improve one. For Zadina, the most impactful change would be to place him on s line alongside the big playmakers on the roster, like Dylan Larkin, Lucas Raymond, and Jakub Vrana.

For a short stretch this season, Zadina was coupled with Larkin and Raymond on Detroit’s top line. Playing with highly skilled playmakers such as them can create exponentially more chances for a struggling young player like Zadina. The two always look for passes and scoring chances for themselves as well as their teammates, which should provide him with the support he needs to thrive.

Filip Zadina Detroit Red Wings
Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Giving Zadina time on the top offensive line at equal strength as well as on the power play will help him continue to grow. Being on these top lines not only provides him with stronger linemates but gives him more ice time to get more comfortable and experienced in his game. Not that he isn’t comfortable, but there is a certain level of confidence that he needs to live up to expectations and his potential. The Red Wings’ top offensive line (with Larkin and Raymond) generates points like nobody’s business, so putting Zadina in that equation will give him more chances to score and help boost his confidence after a struggling season.

More recently, Zadina has found a semi-frequent home on the second line alongside Pius Suter and Jakub Vrana, who has been red hot since returning from his shoulder injury. Vrana and Zadina complement each other to the point that high-danger chances present themselves. Having Vrana fully healthy and back in action has been a gamechanger for the team as well as Zadina. Their chemistry was apparent last season in which they played on the same line a handful of times, and the results were satisfying offensively but needed bolstering defensively (from ‘Red Wings’ Jakub Vrana, Filip Zadina show glimpses of big things offensively together,’ The Detroit News, 4/6/22).

Ultimately, patience is key with young players like Zadina. He has the skills needed for a bright future in the NHL but has not been put in situations to help him reach his full potential. Without the proper chances, the stats will reflect it and will put weight on a player’s shoulders. He has been carrying that weight all season, playing on different lines in what seems like every game, and is underutilized and, therefore, underdeveloped. Going forward, he will hopefully get more chances to prove his worth as a Red Wing and be a key aspect of the team’s offense in seasons to come.