“I need to prove to them that I’m a good player and that I deserve to get a spot on the team," Zadina said. David Guralnick, The Detroit News
Detroit — He takes a puck at center ice and moves in briskly with effortless strides.
A flick of the wrists, right under the pipe.
He repeats, frequently with the same result.
Hello, Filip Zadina. Welcome to a place trademarked Hockeytown.
He is 18. He will not be 19 until the week after Thanksgiving.
Many hockey folks think he can play for the Red Wings Thursday, Oct. 4, when another rebuilding season begins against the Blue Jackets in Little Caesars Arena.
Zadina does, too.
“That’s good to hear, you know?” he said, welcoming the expectations, which he knows because he has seen the social media since the Wings drafted him sixth overall Friday.
When a few hundred more followers show up on Twitter overnight, he could understand people know there is a new kid in town.
“I need to prove to them that I’m a good player,” he said, of the Red Wings brass. “And that I deserve a spot on the team.
“I’ve got a chance. But I need to take it.
“I need to play my best hockey.”
Zadina played major junior hockey in Nova Scotia last year, two seasons after debuting in the best league in the Czech Republic at 16.
The advancement from junior hockey to the NHL is a far longer stride than an adolescent playing with men in the Czech Extraliga. But that experience, and growing up the son of a hockey coach, and retired professional player, Marek Zadina, are things that might help Zadina take the next step, in a promising career.
“Two seasons ago, I played against men,” he said. “So, I know what I have to expect from the men’s hockey.
“I’ll be prepared, and hopefully I’ll win the battle for my spot.”
Confident, perhaps to the point of brashness, Zadina is nonetheless realistic about the challenge.
“I’m going to have to face things,” he said, of the possibility of playing in the NHL. “It’s going to be very hard for me.
“If I play my hockey and remain patient — and I’ll work hard, so it’s going to be good.
“I’ll just try to focus on myself and win my spot. And, if I try real hard, I will make it.”
When Zadina got to town Sunday, his first time in Detroit, the Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer gave him the grand tour of the franchise’s palatial digs.
“He showed me all the things here,” Zadina said, of the sprawling, well-appointed complex, which is Little Caesars Arena and the Belfor Training Center, the Red Wings practice rink. “And I don’t know if I’m in another rink, right now, because it looks like some hotel, or something.
“It’s just unbelievable here.”
Amid the tour, the coach’s son, Zadina, asked to skate.
He wanted to get his legs moving.
“He’s just an extremely hard worker,” said Shawn Horcoff, Red Wings director of player development.
“I mean, the kid wanted to come skate and work out yesterday. I don’t think he realized what the week is going to bring. He might have felt differently if he knew how practices were going to go, today.
“But yeah, he did. He wanted to get on the ice.”
A day later, Zadina sounded like he was still making his case for the leg workout.
“I was on the ice, anyhow,” he said. “I just wanted to be prepared for the whole camp here.”
Horcoff likes a lot of things about Zadina, as do many NHL scouts and other organizations.
“I like his character a lot. Just in general talking to him, just being around him for the past few days,” the former captain of the Oilers said. “Obviously, he’s got a fantastic shot, a good quick release
“He’s very agile.
“So, I think, for the first day, with all new equipment, it was pretty impressive.”
Zadina said he got used to both the new surroundings and equipment on the first day, which included double-shifted practices.
“It was the first practices here,” he said. “I felt kind of weird because I don’t have my gear. So, it’s new ones. I’m just trying to get used to the new pads and the new stick.
“So, it’s going to get better and better. And when we play in the game Saturday,” he said, of the scrimmage that annually closes the Red Wings’ development camp, “that’s going to be a great game.”
It clearly rankled Zadina that the Canadiens, Senators and Coyotes all took other forwards right before him.
The Wings like that demonstration of pride and self-confidence.
“He’s just a kid who wants to make an impression,” Horcoff said.
“Obviously, he was disappointed in with where he got drafted, which was impressive for us.
“He’s come over, he’s confident he can score. And we hope that he does, because that’s what we’re going to need.”
Zadina seems assured, focused and well-aware of the big challenge he faces, to make the Red Wings’ roster opening night.
“I just want to continue to play hockey the way I have in past seasons,” Zadina said.
“And I want to be better.”