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Filip Zadina’s road to the NHL runs through and may return to Halifax

Detroit’s top prospect comes from a major junior hockey club known for producing elite talent.

2018 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Filip Zadina, The Detroit Red Wings’ highest (and most fortunate) draft pick in twenty-eight years, is immensely-skilled and an electrifying player that fans in Hockeytown are unanimously excited about bringing into the organization in hopes that he will accelerate the club’s current re-building phase.

The talented eighteen-year-old Czech-winger not only brings his world-class skill set to Detroit, but also an impressive major-junior hockey pedigree as well. Zadina is the latest highly-touted Halifax Mooseheads’ player to be selected during the first-round of the NHL Draft; joining a list of some very well known/respected names.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is a high-octane fueled offensive league that has produced some prolific goal-scorers. Over the course of the last decade or so, “The Q’s” Halifax Mooseheads have been renowned for churning out several of the NHL’s current young/up-and-coming stars.

Since the Alex Ovechkin/Sidney Crosby (another QMJHL alum) era began in the NHL around 2004-05, here’s a list of forwards who, like Zadina, were selected from Halifax in the first-round:

  • 2007: Jakub Voracek (seventh overall)
  • 2013: Nathan MacKinnon (first overall) & Jonathan Drouin (third overall)
  • 2014: Nikolaj Ehlers (ninth overall)
  • 2017: Nico Hischier (first overall)

Not a bad list of players to be added to, if you ask me. Of the players noted above, only Hischier played one single season with the Mooseheads. Voracek, MacKinnon and Ehlers all played two seasons, while Drouin stayed for a third year. This is not to say that Zadina will be comparable/better than/just as good as any of these aforementioned NHL’ers, but it’s fun to examine a bit.

For example, during their freshman year in “The Q” and in roughly the same amount of regular-season games played, Zadina totaled 82 points (44 G, 38 A) in 57 games, more than MacKinnon’s 78 points (31 G, 47 A) in 58 contests. However, Voracek and Hischier just barely bested Zadina by each tallying 86 points in 59 and 57 games played, respectively. Ehlers had a monstrous rookie campaign, scoring 104 points, while Drouin accumulated only 29 points in 33 games.

I understand that there are endless amounts of variables and a dozen different ways to compare hockey players/athletes, especially at the junior/prospect level, but from purely a numbers standpoint, it’s worth noting.

It is also important to remember that a majority of Zadina’s fellow Mooseheads didn’t exactly set the NHL on fire during their inaugural season. Voracek didn’t put up a 20 goal season until his fifth year in the league and after being traded to the Flyers; Drouin, didn’t net twenty until his third season as he rotated in and out of the AHL. Hischier and MacKinnon both lit the lamp twenty times during their rookie season.

Of course, the 20 goal mark isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to measuring offensive production/value, but it’s not a bad place to start either. Again, apples and oranges, friends.

While comparing and trying to prophesy is quite fun, it’s impossible to dance around the giant elephant lurking in the room. Can/will Zadina, like Hischier, make the direct leap from the draft to the big league?

Ken Holland and the rest of the front office, who all have to be over the moon still after drafting Zadina, have stated the kid will have every opportunity to make Detroit’s roster in 2018-19. If the decision was left to the fans, his jersey would already be on sale and his name slotted in over some of the Wings’ more seasoned forwards on the roster card.

And if Zadina posts a solid training camp followed by an impressive preseason performance, then the powers that be will certainly have an issue (if not several) to address. After much debate and speculation since the draft, it was recently confirmed that Zadina will either be in Detroit or headed back to Halifax next season, the AHL will not be an option.

Per Helene St. James, of the Detroit Free Press:

The Detroit Red Wings and Filip Zadina were both under the impression he could play in the AHL in 2018-19, but have been told his junior team wants him back if he does not make the Wings.

And why wouldn’t Halifax want him back? We want him in Detroit. The Mooseheads will be hosting the 2019 Memorial Cup Tournament next May, even more of a reason to have not only your, but the entire league’s, most outstanding rookie back on your side. Ultimately, it comes down to Zadina’s NHL audition over the next several months, and whether or not the Wings can accommodate another roster spot for a rookie forward. Only time will tell.


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