American Hockey League

Opportunity knocking for Zadina

TRAVERSE CITY – Filip Zadina figures to score most of his goals by creating space and unleashing his tremendous shot, but the Detroit Red Wings also want him to go to the net and generate opportunities from inside.

“I think to get to the big numbers in goals, you got to get right around that net,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “You got to pick up what you’d term dirty goals. It’s something we’ve talked to him about and it’s something he’s continuing to work on.”

Zadina crashed the net on one sequence during Sunday’s Red/White game at training camp. He didn’t convert, but it’s all about building habits.

“I saw the puck, so I wanted to go to the net and create some chances,” Zadina said after the scrimmage at Centre I.C.E. “Probably it’s going to be my game, go more to the net and I’ll be more productive in front of the net.

“It’s not easy goals. It’s still hard goals, the same way when you shoot the puck. There are some more places where you can score goals around the net than the other. If I’ll be there more, I’ll probably get more goals.”

Zadina wasn’t the dangerous offensive player many were expecting from the sixth overall selection in 2018-19, spending all but a brief stretch of his first pro season in the AHL. He produced 16 goals and 35 points in 59 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins and a goal and two assists during a late-season nine-game stint with Detroit.

“It’s part of the hockey life, right?” Zadina said. “No one has an easy way to the NHL. I think I was glad I could spend one year in the AHL. It opened my eyes to what I got to do better. Now I work the whole summer and I’m a better player now. I feel awesome on the ice.”

The Red Wings have an opening on their second line, likely centered by Valtteri Filppula and featuring 30-goal scorer Andreas Athanasiou. Taro Hirose appears to have the inside track, following an impressive late-season 10-game stint (goal, six assists) with the Red Wings, who signed him out of Michigan State. It’s a combination that has practiced together in camp.

Zadina must excel during the preseason to earn that spot. He has been skating with Frans Nielsen and Adam Erne in camp.

General manager Steve Yzerman said Zadina was dangerous and had numerous great scoring chances during the four games of the Prospects Tournament last week despite not scoring a goal (he had five assists).

“He can really shoot the puck, he’s got an instinct for getting open,” Yzerman said. “He’s only 19, was eligible to play junior last year. He did very well in the American Hockey League, it’s just adjusting to the pro game. He’ll continue to get physically stronger and gain experience. With that strength and experience he’ll get more accustomed to the speed of the pro game.

“Not knowing him very well but talking with a lot of people on the staff that know him, he’s got a good attitude, he’s open-minded and wants to improve, and with a good attitude and open mind and work ethic, he will improve. I think he’s projecting in the right direction. I was really encouraged by the week he had.”

Zadina’s primary role is to shoot and score, but he is glad to contribute as a playmaker, too.

“I think anytime you get to where you’re one-dimensional, it’s hard. You want to provide more than that,” Blashill said. “When I watched Filip Zadina in juniors, he made plays. That’s what I liked when I saw him on tape, that it was more than just the pure scoring.”

Said Zadina: “The game is going to be a little bit slower for me this year because I know what it’s going to be like. It’s about the space, but it’s (also) about the patience. Then if you get a puck, you just got to skate. Be smart and a good skater and I think the game will be easier.”

Blashill stressed the need for Zadina to play a 200-foot game while being dangerous offensively, calling it a hard thing that takes a little time.

“He can’t get frustrated when he doesn’t score, he’s just got to keep playing,” Blashill said. “Part of this process of becoming an NHL player and getting to the top of the pyramid is mental toughness and you have to find a way to keep your own confidence when things aren’t going great.”

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