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2018 Prospect Preview: Filip Zadina

Another year, another top prospect for the Halifax Mooseheads

Canada v Czech Republic - Quarterfinal -  2017 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Wow, Nico Hischier has only been out of the Halifax Mooseheads’ system for a little over 3 months now, and the Mooseheads have already managed to land yet another top prospect coming out of Europe. The Halifax Mooseheads are a factory for top prospects, and they have found particular success in the Import Drafts recently, continuously bringing in some of the top European imports into North America. It seems like at least one top prospect comes off of this team every year or two. In fact, if you go back to every draft since 2013, with the only exception being 2016, at least one player has been selected in the top 10 from Halifax. You had Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin in 2013 go 1st and 3rd overall, Nikolaj Ehlers go 9th overall in 2014, Timo Meier go 9th overall in 2015, Nico Hischer go 1st overall this year, and now Filip Zadina is a lock for the 10, probably top 5, arguably even top 3 next year. Hell, they even have one of the top prospects for next season, Xavier Parent (who I mentioned in my Joe Veleno article; you’ll be hearing more about him next year), who I would also be willing to bet will end up being taken in the top 10 in 2019. How they keep finding ways to add talent like this blows my mind.

Par the course, the 2017-2018 Halifax Mooseheads team is stacked with one of the best pools of draft-eligible talent of any team in the entire draft. You have Jared McIsaac (D), who is ranked 11th on hockeyprospect, and 5th by Future Considerations, who is a shoe-in for the top 15 this upcoming June, and could even see himself being in contention for a top 10 pick. You have Benoit-Olivier Groulx (C), who is ranked 13th by Future Considerations, and is yet another contender to be picked in the top 30. You have Alexis Gravel (G), ranked 60th on Future Considerations, and considered one of the top goalie prospects this year. Name a position, and the Halifax Mooseheads boast a top prospect for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft on their roster playing that position. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. And the best player of all of these guys is Czech import, Filip Zadina. While Nico Hischier is a very tough act to follow, I somehow don’t think Filip Zadina will mind at all. Any team that is picking 3rd and is unfortunate enough to miss out on Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov is really not that unfortunate at all when one considers the prospect of adding a talent of Filip Zadina’s caliber to their prospect pool.

Zadina has been on scouts’ radars for a few years now, beginning with his days in the Czech U16 league and U18 league in 2013-2014, where he lit up the U16 league for 24 goals and 13 assists in just 24 games, and impressed in the U18 league, scoring 9 goals and 10 assists in 27 games as a 14-year-old. As a 15-year-old the next season, he was scoring at an almost unprecedented pace of 18 goals and 16 assists in just 11 games. Prior to 2019 draft eligible forwards Filip Prikryl and Martin Lang, this scoring pace was 4th all-time for a single season in the Czech U16 league. Since then, he has done nothing but continue to impress scouts. Zadina has particularly gained a lot of attention from his play at different international tournaments. He was easily one of the best Czech forwards at the last two U18 tournaments, and had hands-down the most impressive performance at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Tournament for any Draft -1 prospect, finishing 3rd in tournament scoring, behind only Sasha Chmelevski and Michael Pastujov (who were eligible to be drafted in 2017). He managed to one-up the likes of Klim Kostin, Martin Necas, Maxime Comtois, Andrei Svechnikov (yes, THAT Andrei Svechnikov), Filip Chytil, Ostap Safin, Michael Rasmussen, Joe Veleno, Nico Hischier, and a host of others. While only 4 games is a small sample size, it gives you a good idea of how good Zadina is when he was doing this as a draft -1 player, and why I am talking about this kid right now.

Back in 2016, Zadina was drafted 4th overall by the Vancouver Giants in the CHL Import Draft. The only 3 players taken ahead of him were 2017 picks Klim Kostin (Kootenay Ice), Dmitri Samorukov (Guelph Storm), and Ivan Chekhovich (Baie-Comeau Drakkar). However, Zadina decided to stay in his native Czech Republic for another year, and played for his hometown team, HC Dynamo Pardubice, in both the U20 league and the Extraliga. In the U20 league, Zadina was scoring at a pace of almost a point per game, despite being considerably younger than most of the other players in the league, notching 9 goals and 9 assists with HC Pardubice U20. His showing in the U20s was impressive enough that he got the opportunity to play 25 games up with HC Dynamo Pardubice, where he scored a goal and an assist in 25 games as a 17-year-old in a men’s league logging very limited minutes. While only a goal and an assist in 25 games is not the strongest showing, this is a men’s league that we are talking about, and Pardubice was not a good team. In fact, they faced relegation at the end of last season.

After having yet another impressive U18 tournament this year, where he led the Czechs in scoring, Zadina re-entered the CHL Import draft, and was selected 11th overall by the Halifax Mooseheads. So far, it has been a very impressive transition from Europe to North America for Zadina. As I write this article, he is off to a hot start in Halifax, notching a goal and 4 assists through his first 3 games. I fully expect him to sustain this pace, just as I fully expect to hear his name called not long after Rasmus Dahlin’s and Andrei Svechnikov’s next June.

Player Vitals

Name: Filip Zadina

Position: LW

Date of Birth: November 27, 1999

Birthplace: Pardubice, Czech Republic

Current Team: Halifax Mooseheads

Wears: #11

Shoots: L

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 192 lbs

NHL Comparable: Tomas Tatar (on steroids)

Rankings

Hockeyprospect.com: 6th

Future Considerations: 3rd

Player Analysis

Zadina is a very gifted offensive winger with very fluid puckhandling abilities. In terms of skating abilities, while I think his acceleration and top speed are perhaps only above average, what really stands out to me is how strong his lower body is, and how good his balance is. He keeps a very strong, wide stance as he skates, lowering his center of gravity and making him much more difficult to knock off of the puck. Further, while not particularly fleet-footed, his edgework is marvelous, and he is able to swivel and maneuver in what seems like 360 degrees. This makes him very maneuverable in tight spaces such as in the corners and along the boards when protecting the puck.

Zadina’s puckhandling abilities are perhaps even more impressive. I would, in fact, have to say that Zadina is one of the best stickhandlers (if not THE best) in this upcoming draft. Zadina is able to handle the puck very deftly in full flight, and is a master at stickhandling through traffic and in very tight spaces. This ability, in particular, opens up a lot of ice for himself and his teammates, and allows him to create scoring chances most players wouldn’t even attempt to try. This may be a bit blasphemous to say, but when I watch Zadina handle the puck through traffic, it reminds me a bit of a certain magician that we all know and love. He shows incredible poise and patience with the puck, never rushing a decision, always seemingly able to out wait goaltenders and defenders until there is an opening to strike. He has a very good sense of how a play is going to develop, and takes any opportunity he sees to make that come to fruition. Combined with his edgework and his balance, his ability to handle the puck in tight spaces makes him extremely effective at protecting the puck along the boards and in the corners, and more often than not, he will come out with the puck from battles in these areas. These skills make him a very valuable asset on the cycle game.

When Zadina doesn’t have the puck, he has a knack for getting himself into position for very dangerous scoring opportunities, and he’s able to task switch between supporting the cycle game and immediately shifting gears to get himself open in the most dangerous areas around the net to accept the puck. This usually ends with either a goal, or the goalie having to make an even better save to stop him.

Offensively, Zadina has an elite-level release on his shot, and a very good arsenal of different shots that he can beat goalies with. His snapshot is very accurate, has great velocity, and doesn’t need to telegraph it to get a good release on it. This makes him a very dangerous customer when he gets himself into position. He also has a great wrist shot, and a backhand which he can get off very quickly. His vision is every bit as good, and when you combine that with his deceptive edgework, his patience, his puck protection abilities, and his ability to handle the puck in traffic, he is able to create a lot of passing lanes for himself. As a whole, his tools are gamebreaking, and let him be an absolute force on the ice. When he’s not threatening to score himself, his vision is still something that defenders have to show some respect. Overall, his offensive creativity is excellent, and he has all of the tools to become a premier offensive winger in the NHL if he pans out.

That isn’t to say that there haven’t been some concerns. For example, the canucksarmy blog recently wrote a fantastic article which analytically broke down the projected top 5 prospects for 2018. The article, which can be read here, notes that in terms of adjusted scoring value, as quantified by SEAL (Situation, Era, Age, and League), Zadina’s scoring value is rather underwhelming when one looks at his time in the Extraliga. However, interpreting this at face value comes with a few caveats, which the author of this article also acknowledges, noting that SEAL has been underrating other Czech prospects such as Necas and Chytil as well. That being said, one should be aware of some of the analytics that have been done, but should also understand some of the nuances and caveats associated with these statistical models. Playing in a men’s league as a 17 year old on a team that was downright not very good is something that should be taken into consideration. In order to exorcise any of the doubts, Zadina is going to need to have a strong, consistent season in the Q. Further, at this point I think it would take a lot to keep him off of the World Juniors roster for the Czech Republic. Having a strong showing at the World Juniors is, again, a necessity for him. So far, he has been delivering, and my expectations remain quite positive for him throughout the remainder of this season.

Here are what other scouts are saying about Zadina:

Rangy skilled winger with soft sands [sic] who mixes his game-breaking skills with a tremendous appetite for success. Zadina arguably is the best forward prospect to come out of the Czech Republic in the last few seasons, and since he was 16-year-old has been hand-picked to lead his country at the biggest international tournaments. He has exceptional vision and hockey sense that makes every teammate a threat to score when he is on the ice. Strong on his skates, Zadina is extremely difficult to contain because he’s as elusive moving laterally as he is when jetting in a straight line, and even the most competent defenders struggle to maintain a tight gap. Give him too much room, however, and he’ll exploit it.

Zadina is easily the best stickhandler among any draft-eligible forwards, and you can count on him to set up quality chances that originate from the corner several times a game. But he’s not just a playmaker — Zadina has elite finishing skills and can beat a goalie in a manner of ways. He has an excellent shot that he can fire off the pass with accuracy, but his shiftiness and quick bursts towards the goal provides him with the chance to deke or flash a deadly backhander. Zadina is a fierce competitior who plays with controlled emotion, and he is not just a point producer — he likes to get in on the forecheck and position himself properly as opponents attempt their breakouts. These anticipation skills lend to his superior command of play development and makes him as dangerous on the penalty kill as he is in other situations. — The Draft Analyst

Zadina is a dangerous goal-scorer in the making…is a strong and balanced skater…makes plays with his feet and hands…is able to dangle with the puck through defenders in the tightest areas of the ice and create chances out of nothing…has an offensively creative mind and imagination, and isn’t shy to try whichever move comes to mind…sets his teammates up with smart passes…very good hockey sense…has an absolutely lethal shot, great release…gets himself into excellent position to get his shots off….likes to come down the wing with speed and cut to the middle for a chance, as he gets the goalie moving and opening up holes…he possesses a nifty backhand that he needs very little time and space to deposit when working around the crease…slides into board battles undetected to find and scoop up pucks to drive possession…very sneaky player who always seems to end up in a scoring position with the puck…great poise with the puck and calm under pressure…offensive dynamo…certainly has the potential to develop into a top-end player at the NHL level. — Future Considerations (July, 2017)

Video Highlights

Video Credit: MirokiOnDefence - YouTube. Miroki provides his own excellent analysis on Zadina, and provides some further information on Zadina’s stats (particularly his possession stats) that I think merit mentioning. Given that most of our observations of Zadina are very aligned, this video also provides analysis simultaneously accompanied by clips of Zadina.

Video Credit: The Draft Analyst - YouTube

Video Credit: Prospect Videos - YouTube. These clips, while having some overlap with the clips above, further showcase Filip Zadina’s tools and style of play.

Final Thoughts

While it’s more debatable who is going to be taken immediately after Dahlin and Svechnikov, I strongly believe that Zadina is a candidate to get taken in that 3rd spot, and he has a very good chance of solidifying his position in the top 3 by having a strong campaign with the Mooseheads this season, and having a strong international showing. One thing is for certain, he is not going to be there beyond the top 10 unless something drastic happens. As much as I would love to grab a center or a defenseman, if the Wings have a horrible year and somehow end up with a top 5 pick, I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth if he fell in our laps. Having to choose between him and some of the other top prospects this year would be an excellent problem for the Wings (or any team, for that matter) to have. I am crossing my fingers and praying to the hockey gods that he gets selected for the Czech World Junior Roster, as I can’t get enough of this kid, and it would give both scouts and fans alike a chance to see what he’s made of.

Anyways, thank you for tuning in. That’s it for this preview. Next week, I will be covering projected top 2 pick, and Russian superprospect, Andrei “Little Svech” Svechnikov. Stay tuned!