The Best Version of Zadina
Workshop 49 Recording
For the Detroit Red Wings and Filip Zadina, this summer will be decision time.
Zadina, selected sixth overall by DET at the 2018 NHL Draft, is in the final season of his three-year Entry Level Contract. Despite outstanding production in the QMJHL (1.44 points per game), the 22 year old has yet to translate his junior scoring to the NHL (0.39 PPG in 122 appearances).
The rebuilding Red Wings will have three choices: trade the pending restricted free agent, sign him to a bridge deal, or extend him long-term.
Given Zadina’s poor NHL scoring and underlying statistics, DET is unlikely to get another sixth overall pick in return for the blue-chip prospect. A better course of action, then, is for DET to hold the asset and to build up its value.
Part One (free to read) will break down Zadina’s biggest strength, one that will allow him to become a productive scoring winger in the NHL, in time.
In Part Two (for paid subscribers only), we will take a deeper look at Zadina’s personal game structure, then find subtle ways to help him play to his strength more often.
Part One: Zadina’s Rush Play
As a draft eligible player, Zadina scored 82 points in just 57 games. The winger starred at right flank for the Halifax Mooseheads’ first power play unit, but did most of his damage at even strength (62 ES points).
To be an elite 5v5 scorer means being efficient off the rush. Zadina was the cream of the crop in the QMJHL and show flashes of genius with the Red Wings.
Many high-scoring juniors default to using wide speed and physicality to attack off the rush. MTL’s Josh Anderson and NYR’s Julien Gauthier (another former 40-goal man in the Q) are two examples.
Zadina, not particularly pacy or physical by NHL standards, prefers finesse and nuance to brute strength.
1. Use of Defensemen
As the level of competition increases from the QMJHL to the AHL to the NHL, more Ds show an aptitude for jumping into the rush.
Instead of forcing plays north, Zadina has the instinct to look sideways or back for a teammate jumping into the rush as F4.
Zadina (DET11) starts the sequence at the red line, facing his own net. Instead of backhanding the puck up the wall, he identifies Nick Leddy (DET2) activating through the middle. Zadina gets off the wall, wins a 2v1 to Leddy and then sprints between checks into a favourable spot to receive a return pass.
2. Playing off the Heels
As a goal-scorer, Zadina is at his best when he is not the primary puck carrier. Moving off the puck allows him to play off a defender’s heels and to sneak into the scoring area unimpeded.
Following a VGK turnover, DET11 swings towards the middle and changes checks by skating away from VGK15 and behind VGK7’s heels. With VGK7 committed to the puck, DET11 gives his teammate a target and receives a breakaway pass.
3. Finding the Level of the Puck
Instead of habitually anchoring at the far blue line in anticipation for a stretch pass, Zadina employ a pattern frequently used by Patrick Kane, Nikolaj Ehlers, William Nylander and other dynamic wingers.
DET11 tracks back and swings below the level of the puck. His reward is a short lateral pass, one he can catch in-stride for a controlled entry attempt.
Swinging low and toward the puck creates a pocket of space that’s hard for opposing players to defend. After his first touch, DET11 now has a crucial second to look up, identify his options and move to escape pressure.
These three high-end habits allow junior scorers to translate their skills to the NHL. Zadina shows that he can execute them, so why does he still struggle driving play and creating chances with DET?
Part Two: Zadina’s Growth Opportunities
In order to identify Zadina’s growth opportunities, one must study videos (full shifts, in chronological order) in order to understand the ebb and flow in the player’s game.
As an example, I clipped all of DET11’s shifts from a 7-3 loss against the Colorado Avalanche on December 10th.