Red Wings' prospect Filip Zadina returns to Grand Rapids after a 'tough' world junior tournament

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — It wasn’t the way Filip Zadina wanted things to go, these last several weeks at the world junior tournament.

Zadina, playing for his native Czech Republic, wanted to duplicate the success of a year ago (Zadina had seven goals in seven games and led his country to a medal).

It didn’t go that way.

The Czech Republic didn’t reach the medal round and Zadina had no goals and one assist in five games. In a lot of ways, it was a dud.

Zadina is returning to Grand Rapids and will join the Griffins on Tuesday for practice.

“He had a tough tournament,” said coach Jeff Blashill, Sunday before the Red Wings faced Washington. “Sometimes that’s based on production. That happens. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.

“It didn’t go his way. Anytime you judge a small sample size, it’s dangerous. It wasn’t a great sample size, but the year before it was a great sample size.

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“Zadina has had a great year in the American League. We all want him to be Wayne Gretzky tomorrow, because of the fact he’s such an important piece for the Detroit Red Wings. But sometimes it doesn’t work that way.

“Filip has to come along at his own pace and keep believing himself. He’s going to be a real good NHL player and he’s going to get a chance to prove it over time.”

Zadina often played with Carolina Hurricanes prospect Martin Necas as a linemate last year at the junior tournament, but the two were often split this year.

Blashill said when Zadina gets an opportunity to play with a high-quality center, Zadina gets “exponentially better."

Zadina, 19, has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 27 games with the Griffins. After a slow start, Zadina has picked up offensively and is adjusting to the professional game.

The Wings had hoped Zadina would go to Vancouver during this junior tournament and gain confidence with another big offensive tournament.

Since that didn’t happen, it’s up to Zadina to keep working and doing what is necessary to make him a better pro player, which Blashill said, Zadina is doing nicely thus far.

“It wouldn’t have built the confidence we had hoped,” said Blashill of the just completed tournament. “So what do you do? Ben Simon (Grand Rapids head coach), I know, has already sat down and talked with him, and said, ‘This is life, man.' What are you going to do? Are you going to work and keep getting better, getting better at the small details?

“That tournament is over. Let’s go to work today. I hear it from Ben Simon, and Shawn Horcoff (the Wings’ player development director) and Ken Holland (Wings’ general manager), about how hard this kid works, and if he works and he wants it, and he’s mentally tough, he’ll be fine, and in the end, he could be an even better player.”

Praise for USA Hockey

Team USA lost to Finland in the world junior tournament, earning itself a silver medal.

Given the recent success of the USA men’s and women’s programs at the international level — Blashill coached the men’s team to a bronze medal at last spring’s world championships — Blashill feels USA Hockey is at an oustanding place.

“As strong as it’s ever been, without question,” Blashill said. “It shows you the depth of players in the US, and I’m real proud and happy about that. It’s a credit to those working in Colorado Springs, and to the late Jim Johannson (late assistant executive director of USA Hockey).”

The fact Team USA now goes to tournaments with expectations of getting into the medal round, said Blashill, is a sign of where the program is positioned.

“We go there with expectations we should compete to win,” said Blashill, specifically about this past junior tournament. “That’s the level of player we’re producing in the U.S.”

Ice chips

Defenseman Mike Green (lower body) has begun skating, but all indications are Green is at least a week away, probably a few days more than that, of returning to the lineup.

…Defenseman Nick Jensen has played over 26 minutes the last three games — a high of 28:21 — a sign of the coaching staff’s trust in Jensen’s play.

“His feet are a great defensive weapon,”  said Blashill, “and his competitiveness allows him to overpower guys, at times, that are bigger. He’s played real well.”

Twitter: @tkulfan