Jeff Blashill on the Wings' promoting Filip Zadina The Detroit News
Detroit — The Filip Zadina era is about to begin in Detroit.
At least for a little while, for no more than nine games.
Coach Jeff Blashill said after Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild the Red Wings will promote Zadina — the team’s first-round draft pick from last June — to play in Sunday’s game against San Jose.
Zadina will practice with the Wings Saturday, and make his debut the next afternoon at Little Caesars Arena.
“It was something we decided a bit ago,” Blashill said. “We’re hoping he gets up here and gets a feel as a young player for the things he needs to do to work on over the course of the rest of the year and into the summer, then go back and be a better player because of it and lead Grand Rapids (into the playoffs this spring).”
Zadina, 19, has been playing some of his best hockey lately. Over the last 10 games Zadina has five goals and six assists, a stretch in which he scored goals in four consecutive games.
On the season, Zadina has 15 goals and 16 assists in 45 games, with a minus-9 plus-minus rating.
“I’ve had a chance to watch him play a little bit on line, and when I’ve watched, he’s been what I would say more dangerous,” Blashill said. “When I talked to Ben Simon (Griffins’ head coach) this week and told him this is what we’re thinking of doing, he said to me it’s great timing because he’s been playing real well.
“When I talked to our development people, management people who go down to watch him play, they’ve said the same thing. He’s starting to really take the right steps forward to be a more dangerous player in the American League.
“The thing I like about Filip, his game is fairly mature and it’s just a matter of continuing to be more dangerous.”
Zadina isn’t going to play more than nine games, otherwise he’ll burn one season of his contract. Blashill said Zadina will play the next two home games, including Tuesday against Montreal, then will go on the two-game road trip to Arizona and Colorado.
The Wings want Zadina to return to Grand Rapids after mid-March so he can prepare fully for the AHL playoffs.
“We’d like him to be ready for the playoffs and we’d love them to go on a big playoff run and he’d be a part of it,” Blashill said.
Don’t expect Zadina to be automatically inserted into the top two Red Wing’ forward lines, despite the fact he has the offensive potential to be that type of player.
“We’ve got some good young players that if I bring him in and put him ahead of some of those young guys, it’s not really right,” Blashill said. “They’ve worked for a number of years, and put yourself in whose shoes it might be, they’ve worked a lot of years and suddenly some guy gets plopped ahead of you.
“They’ve had to earn it and Filip will have to earn it.”
Blashill ended any speculation about forward Michael Rasmussen returning to junior hockey to finish this season — so as to be eligible to play in the AHL playoffs in Grand Rapids this spring — by saying Rasmussen will finish the season with the Wings.
By doing so, Rasmussen will be ineligible to play in the minor leagues (because he had junior eligibility remaining).
“Our plan is to keep Ras the rest of the year,” Blashill said. “There’s a lot that goes into it. We had long discussions about it. We felt like this was the best thing for his development.
“Part of that is the unknown. You can’t say he’s going on a long playoff run. You don’t know how long GR is going to play. Those are big factors.”
The Wings felt Rasmussen had nothing more to prove in junior hockey.
“I watched him dominate major junior hockey last year,” Blashill said. “There are still growth opportunities here.”
Blashill said he plans on playing Rasmussen more at center the rest of the season, as he did largely Friday, when Rasmussen played just 12:58, with a minus-1 rating, and no shots on net.