Confident Filip Zadina relishing another crack at sticking with Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – Filip Zadina could be back for days, maybe weeks, perhaps  this latest promotion from Grand Rapids will be his final one and he'll stay in the NHL for the remainder of his career.

Nobody really knows, especially Zadina.

The Red Wings need, for now, someone to offset the loss of Anthony Mantha (lower body), and Zadina, who was red-hot for the Griffins, made the most sense.

Right wing Filip Zadina had seven goals and six assists (13 points) in 19 games with Grand Rapids.

“No, I don’t think about it,” said Zadina, of how long this present stay might be, and maybe doing too much in an effort to stay with the Wings for good. “I think about today. I live right now. I don’t think what’s going to be in the next week. I just want to play good every game, impress them and help the team to win some games for sure.”

It sounds and looks like Zadina will get an opportunity to show how much he’s grown and developed as a player.

In a short stay late last season, Zadina had three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in nine games, showing spurts of what he could be someday, but also showing there was plenty of work to be done.

After being the sixth player selected in the 2018 NHL Draft, Zadina had plenty of peaks and valleys last season in Grand Rapids — and the opening days of this season, as well.

But Zadina, who turned 20 Wednesday, has been a different player in last several weeks, gaining points in his last six games while earning seven goals and six assists (13 points) in 19 games with the Griffins.

“I would say for sure his overall game has gotten better, his competitiveness on the puck, competitiveness to get the puck when he doesn’t have it,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “When you’re a scorer in junior, you have the puck on your stick a lot. So when you get to the pros sometimes, you wait for the puck to get to your stick and it never gets there. You have to go get it enough times.

“He’s certainly gotten better in those areas.”

Zadina is playing with confidence, which is also encouraging, Blashill said. 

“He looks more confident and the way that shows is his quickness is a little bit better, a little quicker decisions with the puck,” Blashill said. “He’s confident to try and make a play. He made a play real early in the game the other night that was a real offensive play, so he’s coming for sure.”

The self-belief could be the result of the struggles Zadina went through last season.

For a young player who dominated at the junior level, Zadina was a teenager last year playing in the competitive American League and struggled for one of the first times in his career.

Unlike junior hockey, he had a more difficult time trying to find open spaces to unleash his powerful shot in the pros. Zadina had to learn how to adapt.

“When you struggle, your first instinct, for most people in life, is to get a little bit defensive because you’re in a little bit of survival mode and that’s when you’re surviving,” Blashill said. “Last year when he came out, he struggled a little bit and suddenly you’re in survival mode. Then, you’re getting tons of information and everyone has an idea, and your head tends to spin a little bit.

“As you get more time under your belt and you mature as a person and player, you get more confident in what you know is going to be successful. With coaching, maturity and confidence, he sure looks like someone who understands that better than a year ago.”

Zadina overcame a slow start this season with belief in himself and confidence in himself and his Griffins teammates.

“I trust and believe in myself and believe in my teammates, and we started clicking,” Zadina said. “We started producing some offense and then we started playing better as a team. Down there it’s about grinding and getting the chances to the net and put pucks around the net.

“Since I was playing better (in Grand Rapids) I was feeling better with my head and my body. Confidence is pretty huge in hockey. If you are not (confident), you can’t play in this league. I feel good right now and I just want to keep it going.”

Zadina was disappointed about being sent back to the Griffins after the exhibition season, but didn’t let it overwhelm him.

“Work hard and get here as soon as I can,” said Zadina, of what he told himself. “It’s part of hockey. It’s almost the same league, different town, and still hockey and I like to play hockey.

“Of course I want to play here but I wasn’t disappointed. I was disappointed in myself that I was sent down but it’s still hockey. I just want to play here and I want to do my best.”

Blashill reaffirmed Tuesday there’s no clear plan as to how long Zadina will be with the Wings for now.

Essentially it’ll be a day to day situation, with Zadina staying here as long as he looks capable.

“The one thing we’re going to do, both myself and Steve (Yzerman, the Wings’ general manager), is make sure that it’s in his (Zadina’s) best interest long-term,” Blashill said. “If he comes in here and plays unbelievable, that’s good for him, it’s good for us.

“But we’ll take day to day and make sure it’s the right thing.”

Twitter: @tkulfan