Dear Red Wings: Filip Zadina analysis

22-year-old winger still looking to make impact in NHL

Detroit Red Wings right wing Filip Zadina (11) plays against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Filip Zadina was healthy scratched against the Sharks the other night. I am more than happy to offer some analysis of the 22-year-old winger selected 6th overall in 2018.

The eye test

OK, back to Zadina. I believe the term I used for him earlier this season was “snake-bitten.” He was getting his chances on offense, he didn’t look too out of step with the play or anything, but nothing was going in the net for him. And when you’re a young winger expected to score goals and you’re not doing that, everything just kind of goes to s***. Excuse the language, but that’s about it. We see it all the time in this league. It’s not like a winger can channel the energy into winning faceoffs or play the 200-foot game as dedicated as a center can. It can get lonely out there on the wing when looking up toward the rafters for answers is the only thing on your highlight reel.

Zadina appeared to be persevering despite this frustration, but eventually I could see it affecting his overall play. Turnovers started to mount in the neutral zone. He wasn’t where he needed to be during breakouts. Zadina also has not helped the Red Wings figure out their power player failures -- Detroit has a 14% conversion rate on the man advantage, second to last in the league, ahead of only the Montreal Canadiens at 11%. What a disgrace.

But that’s for another day. Let’s focus on Zadina.

My eye test in summary: A talented, young player who is gripping the stick a little too tightly, then failing to have much redeeming quality in the neutral and defensive zones.

What the numbers say

Zadina has 4 goals and 6 assists for 10 points through 32 games played this season -- 4 of those points have come on the power play, amazingly. Compare that to the 19 points he had in 49 games played last year and you’re thinking, hmmm, this guy is kind of in a two-year slump. He had 15 points in 28 games played in his first real season with the Red Wings in 2019-20.

Remember, this is a player who scored 82 points in 57 games in the QMJHL, then 35 points in his first 59 games in the AHL with the Griffins. He’s a points-getter by trade, no?

So far, that’s not translating to the NHL. Sure, the Red Wings have been less than a “great” hockey team -- at times the worst in the league over the past few seasons. But Zadina is being brought in to help turn this around, right? It’s not happening so far, but he’s only 22.

And here’s what makes me believe he will turn it around: coupling my overall positive eye test of Zadina this season with some of his advanced stats:

Both his Corsi For % and Fenwick For % in all situations are above 50 -- 51.1% and 51.3% respectively. Anything over 50 for either of those metrics means the Red Wings have been controlling the puck more often than not when Zadina is on the ice. He’s still ranked among Detroit’s top five players in those metrics at even strength, and that’s without getting on the scoresheet as much as we want to see him. His expected goals for (xGF) is also decent at 18.2 this season. Of course, that’s down compared to 25.2 last season, but there is a lot of hockey to play. Hit the net, man, and bear down, as Mickey would say.

I think healthy scratching a young player in January is enough to say “Hey, slow down the game in your mind a bit, don’t grip the stick so hard, and get back to basics.” Time will tell if this works, but I am in no way ready to give up on Zadina. He has a very high ceiling.

As for his future with the Red Wings, he becomes a restricted free agent at the end of this season. I think you have to plan to sign Zadina to a 2- or -3-year term at a reasonable price. In fact, his lack of scoring production should keep negotiations on the side of Steve Yzerman. Again, he’s only 22 and fits into the rebuild for now. This is not the time to dump him, in my humble opinion.

But one thing to never forget: Zadina is not an Yzerman draft pick, and that seems to matter.

Related: Here’s who the Red Wings picked in the 2018 NHL Draft


About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.