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Filip Zadina still seeking to prove sniper status as he heads to WJC

Prolific scorer searching for lost touch around the net in AHL, but it's only a matter of time until it's rediscovered.

Like a cowboy who is still getting accustomed to life in the big city, Filip Zadina longs for those wide-open spaces.

He couldn’t locate them in training camp, and that’s why Zadina’s NHL dream has gone on temporary hiatus. He’s finding them on occasion in the AHL and maybe, just maybe, an explosive performance for the Czech Republic at the 2019 WJC can put Zadina’s big-league mission back on the fast track.

At the NHL draft last June, even though their most pressing need was for a puck-moving blueliner, the Detroit Red Wings couldn’t resist when right winger Zadina slid out of the top five to them at sixth overall.

Considered the purest goal-scorer in the 2018 draft class, the 18-year-old Zadina piled up an impressive 44 goals in 57 games last season with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. But after an impressive showing at Detroit’s summer development camp as well as the team’s prospect tournament in the fall, Zadina’s scoring touch vanished and he was assigned to AHL Grand Rapids in order to find it. “You have to learn how to manage that time and space and create offense,” said Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill. “It was something that he struggled with in the pre-season with us.”

Zadina admitted the pace of the NHL caught him off-guard. “It was tough for me because I never played the pro game,” Zadina said. “They are smarter, they know how to move. I probably should play a little bit quicker with the puck.”

Since Halifax didn’t draft Zadina, his placement wasn’t governed by the NHL-CHL agreement, so the Wings opted to assign him to the AHL rather than return him to junior. “Once you’ve dominated the level, it’s time to move on,” Blashill said. “The American League is a very hard league and it’s a bigger step from junior to the American League than it is from the American League to the NHL.”

The six-foot, 195-pounder scored six goals in his first 16 AHL games but was still finding his footing defensively. “It’s a learning process,” Blashill said. “It’s going to be a rollercoaster. You just hope the rollercoaster keeps trending in the positive direction.

“We will not bring Filip Zadina up until Filip Zadina is ready to be a full-time NHL impact player. There will be no shortcuts for short term. We need Filip Zadina to ultimately become an elite player. The best way to do that is not bring him into a situation where he could potentially lose confidence. He’s just starting to gain confidence down there. Let’s let him be and keep gaining tons of confidence and hopefully keep taking steps in the right direction.”

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