Detroit Red Wings want Filip Zadina to value himself as more than a shooter. Here’s why

Detroit Free Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Filip Zadina’s comeback was pushed back when the Detroit Red Wings’ game was postponed after Thursday’s morning skate, but he was eager to prove where he belongs.

The Wings will be well acclimated to the time change after arriving in southern California Wednesday. With the Ducks game rescheduled till Sunday, the Wings will play their first game Saturday in Los Angeles against the Kings. Zadina is coming off a one-game benching meant to impress upon the former first-round pick that he needs to be better if he wants to be a regular.

“Ultimately what you want to do as a player is put yourself where you’re not in the mix of guys that are in the conversation of coming out,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “To do that, you have to play great hockey.”

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The Wings have yet to see great hockey from the guy the former regime was thrilled to select when Zadina was available at No. 6 in the 2018 draft. Known for his shot, Zadina was projected to potentially speed up the rebuild. But Zadina, 22 and in his third season, has struggled to be effective. He has four goals and six assists in 32 games this season and 19 goals and 28 assists in 118 career games. This season and last, he has played in the top six with the likes of Pius Suter, Dylan Larkin and Robby Fabbri. He has also seen time on the third line, which does not draw the same level of defenders as the first two lines.

Zadina said he just has to keep believing in himself, especially when he’s in one of his favorite spots: Setting up for a one-timer in the right circle.

“I just have to either fake the shot and pass it back or just try to find a way to get it through the defensemen and get it on net,” Zadina said. “I just have to figure out what I do have to be better.”

When he found out he was scratched Tuesday, Zadina said he was, “disappointed for sure, I was pissed.” While his teammates enjoyed a 6-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks, Zadina, “was working out and watching the guys playing.”

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Zadina may just need time to figure out how to adopt a quicker and more accurate release. He noted it himself, twice, that, “I’m not the first or last who faces this situation. It’s hockey life. I’m not the first one or the last one who has been in this situation.”

It’s just that his struggles are magnified because the guy drafted immediately after Zadina, defenseman Quinn Hughes, already has 125 points in 162 games, and is central to the Vancouver Canucks’ rebuilding plans.

It’s tough on a young player’s confidence when things aren’t going well. Zadina directed seven shots on net in back-to-back games just before Christmas, but has not scored since Nov. 30. At 6 feet and 197 pounds, Zadina is similar in size to Tyler Bertuzzi (6-1, 197), who has established his effectiveness around the net. The Wings don’t have a role model for Zadina, in contrast to how they’ve impressed upon Michael Rasmussen that he should model his game after Carolina shut-down center Jordan Staal; the message to Zadina is that he can be his own model of effectiveness.

“I think Fil is more than just a shooter,” Blashill said. “He’s valued himself that way and certainly the hype was around his shooting, but I think he’s more than just a shooter. The one thing we’ve talked to him about is becoming more of that give-go player. When I watched him play juniors, I saw a guy who could also make plays. That’s what I liked about him — he wasn’t a one-trick pony. When you draft wingers high, I’d like them to be able to do more than just shoot the puck in the net. So I think he can do more than just shoot it, and I think that has to be part of his concentration.”

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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