Red Wings sending Zadina to world juniors to gain confidence, be 'The Man'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Toronto — The positives far outweighed the negatives, and considering the way Filip Zadina is progressing, the Red Wings felt it was the right move to allow Zadina to play in the upcoming world junior championships.

Zadina will leave Grand Rapids, where he’s playing for the minor league Griffins, after their Dec. 19 game.

Red Wings prospect Filip Zadina will represent the Czech Republic in the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

The World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, this year in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, take place Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

“It’s the best tournament for 19-year-olds in the world,” general manager Ken Holland said. “I’ve been talking to his agent (Darren Ferris) for the last two or three weeks, and talking to Filip, and he’s excited to represent his country (the Czech Republic).

“It’s an opportunity to play on the world stage against the best 19-year-old players in the world.”

Zadina, the Wings’ first-round draft pick in June, didn’t make the Red Wings out of the preseason and has spent the season in Grand Rapids where he’s sixth in scoring — seven goals, eight assists, 15 points, in 23 games.

“He’s in a great spot,” Holland said. “He’s on a good path; he’s a better player today than he was eight weeks ago. He’s learning the pro game, he’s doing the things you need to do at the pro level, he’s in a good spot being in the top-6 forwards, playing on the power play in Grand Rapids.

“He’s developing into an important player for them.”

Zadina starred for the Czech Republic last year as an 18-year-old, scoring seven goals (with one assist) in seven games. Zadina was named to the tournament all-star team.

“Obviously the Czechs have reached out, and it’s the same way if you’d have a Canadian or American player in the American League who’d be eligible to play in the tournament, it’s hard to say no,” Holland said. “It’s an opportunity for those federations to put their best team together, and it’s an opportunity for those players to play in a great tournament.

“For Filip, he’s going to go there as a 19-year-old, he had a great tournament last year, and he’ll be in more of a leadership role because he’s 19, so there’s nothing but positives.”

Coach Jeff Blashill felt the junior tournament will benefit Zadina from a confidence standpoint.

“It’s hard to be in real confident situations when you get into pro hockey, pro hockey is so extremely hard,” Blashill said. “He can go play for the Czech Republic and be ‘The Man.' There’s nothing like confidence you get when you produce offensively, and you have to ability to control the game.”

The drawback, potentially, could be Zadina reverting to junior hockey habits on the ice that have been eliminated by pro coaching.

“There’s a potential in those two or three weeks, you might revert back to some of those habits, but you’re hoping the habits he established will carry him through,” Blashill said. “I would take the potential confidence over the potential of lapsing into old habits all day long. It’ll be great for him.”

Wings’ draft picks forward Joe Veleno and defenseman Jared McIssac are on the potential Canadian roster.

Forward Michael Rasmussen, who has had a regular role with the Wings since the season began, was not considered to be sent back to the Canadian junior roster.

“Ras is playing regular for the Red Wings,” Holland said. “Ultimately it’s all about the NHL, and our NHL team, and Ras is in the NHL.”

Lashoff promoted

With defenseman Danny DeKeyser’s hand injury — DeKeyser is 4-to-6 weeks — the Wings called up defenseman Brian Lashoff from Grand Rapids.

Lashoff (6-foot-3, 221 pounds) has three points (all assists) in 17 games in Grand Rapids this season, with a plus-2 rating.

Lashoff, 28, has played in 123 games for the Wings with the Wings over parts of five seasons from 2012 to 2018, with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists).

“We brought Lash up as a precaution depending on the number (of defensemen) we’ll use,” said Blashill, adding the Wings will use six defensemen against the Leafs, meaning Lashoff would be a healthy scratch.

In talking to Holland, assistant general manager Ryan Martin, and Griffins coach Ben Simon, all have been in agreement, Blashill said, that Lashoff has been the Griffins’ most consistent defenseman.

“The other defensemen have played good, it’s not that they haven’t played good, but he’s been consistently their best,” Blashill said. “You’d rather bring up a wily veteran like Lash than a young kid to come up and potentially not play.”

Twitter: @tkulfan