After a heartbreaking 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 23, Detroit Red Wings’ leading scorer Anthony Mantha exited the ice with a lower body injury. Coach Jeff Blashill announced in a recent interview that Mantha would be out for “a few weeks”. Losing the team’s top scorer is a huge blow to their offense, which has primarily relied on his production to hold their own against the opposition. With the Red Wings suffering from a lack of offensive depth, general manager Steve Yzerman made the call to bring up 2018 sixth-overall pick Filip Zadina to the NHL.
Last year, the shifty forward made his NHL debut near the end of the season, scoring three points in nine games with the Red Wings. With Mantha out for the foreseeable future and Zadina riding a hot point streak with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Grand Rapids Griffins, all signs point to Detroit putting their trust in him. Can Zadina earn a full-time spot on the roster or will he utilize this opportunity as a learning experience for another future call-up?
Zadina’s Progress So Far
Building on the progress he made from last season, Zadina seems to have adjusted to the faster pace of the AHL. After a slow start with the Griffins, he regained his confidence, scoring 11 points in just as many games. He now sits third on the team in scoring with 13 points in 19 games, putting him on pace for a 50-plus point season — a much higher number than last season’s 35 points. He’s taken a huge step in his development, combining confidence, overpowering offensive energy, and quick defensive plays to create high-scoring chances for his team.
Before the season began, Yzerman stressed the importance of opportunity for those willing to fight for it. “There are spots on the roster available. But for the younger players… they’re pushing to make the team. There’s an opportunity for someone to make it. Several of them.” (from ‘Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman is encouraged as camp begins. Here’s why,’ Detroit Free Press – 9/15/19) This is Zadina’s opportunity to seize a full-time spot on the roster and he knows it. Thankfully, his confidence is through the roof — confidence he’ll no doubt use to take his game to the next level.
What Zadina Can Bring to the Team
With the Red Wings struggling to find scoring depth, the opportunity to make a huge impact on Detroit’s roster is all but ready for fresh faces. Zadina’s high-speed, quick-thinking style of play could spark an offensive firestorm on any line he plays with. In an ideal scenario, he’ll be able to work his way up the offensive depth chart to play alongside Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin, two of the team’s best offensive weapons. Their all-situations style of play would serve as a perfect conduit to Zadina’s finishing ability, giving the team a deadly one-two-three punch of versatility.
Confidence is key to Zadina’s game. He’ll need to keep his hopes high and his eyes on the prize if he wants to stay on the roster. The Red Wings will likely endure a series of tough games in the coming weeks, playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers, and Washington Capitals in the span of just four days. Zadina will need to be on his A-game against these offensive dynamos, as Blashill will likely watch his play under a microscope.
If Blashill or Yzerman feel that the team is struggling in the face of their opposition, they may opt to send Zadina back down to Grand Rapids to give him the top playing minutes he deserves. He can begin to smooth out any facets of his game he feels need work while he dominates in the AHL, potentially earning another call-up later in the season.
Zadina’s next opportunity to play is on Nov. 27 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here, he’ll have the chance to contend with a Maple Leafs team adapting to the system of their new head coach, Sheldon Keefe.