Red Wings prospect Zadina will get opportunity in NHL before end of season

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings prospect Filip Zadina will likely get called up this season, GM Ken Holland says.

Buffalo — Red Wings fans who have been asking for it since draft night are finally going to get their wish.

Filip Zadina, the first-round draft pick last June, will play in the NHL this season.

Just when, exactly, is still up the air.

“It’s all about the future, and he’s a part of the future,” general manager Ken Holland said. “We’re going to bring him up so he can see what this is all about.

“I don’t know when, and I don’t know for how many games. But he’ll be here for some games.”

For sure, Zadina will not play more than nine games with the Wings, which will likely happen in March after the Feb. 25 trade deadline.

Playing more than nine games would burn one year off Zadina’s entry-level NHL contract, which the Wings don’t want to do at this point.

It would also force the Wings to use a spot to protect Zadina in the 2021 expansion draft when Seattle enters the league.

So, Zadina’s NHL stay will be relatively brief.

Zadina, 19, was the sixth overall pick in June’s draft and instantly heightened expectations and enthusiasm among Wings fans.

But the adjustment to professional hockey hasn’t been entirely smooth.

Far from it.

Zadina had an uneven training camp, and never seriously threatened to land a spot on the roster.

He was sent to Grand Rapids, where, again, the American League has been an eye-opening experience for Zadina.

In 39 games, Zadina has 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) with a team-worse minus-14 plus-minus rating.

“He’s a 19-year-old playing against men,” Holland said. “Some nights has been real good, some nights he hasn’t been as good. He’s learning, he’s learning what it takes to be a pro hockey player.”

Zadina told The Detroit News several weeks ago the adjustment to the AHL had been a difficult transition.

“It’s pretty tough, so far, to play here,” Zadina said. “But it can make me a better player, so I have to learn down here.”

Zadina was excited about the chance of  getting promoted by the Wings, but wasn’t sure when it would be.

“I think I’m playing well, but it’s up to them, if they will give me a chance to try the NHL at some point,” Zadina said. “If not, I’ll try to play a little better. Skate, compete, shoot the puck, do whatever the coaching staff wants.”

Holland hopes that after seeing what it takes to be successful in the NHL, Zadina will take the experience back to the AHL and then into the summer, to get physically stronger.

“It’s going to be a big summer for him,” Holland said.

Not there yet

Defenseman Trevor Daley is on this road trip but isn’t sure he’ll be playing.

Daley hasn’t played since Dec. 29 because of a broken foot suffered in a morning skate Dec. 31. He’s been practicing this week, but still hasn’t been cleared to return to the lineup

“I’ve been getting better every day, feeling a little better,” Daley said. “But it’s still not where I would like it to be. Every day there’s progress. I’m just going to listen to my body and when I’m ready, I’ll be good to go.”

Ice chips

Forward Cristoffer Ehn was a teammate of star Buffalo rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin last season in Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League.

…The Sabres recognized Wings assistant coach Dan Bylsma in the first period. Bylsma was head coach of the Sabres for two seasons (2015-17).

Twitter: @tkulfan

Red Wings at Blackhawks

Faceoff: 3 p.m., Sunday, United Center.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 

Outlook: Chicago (22-24-9, 53 points) has won six consecutive games and moved into wild-card contention in the Western Conference…RW Patrick Kane is having a terrific offensive season (32 goals, 47 assists, 79 points).