As disappointed as Filip Zadina was to be bypassed by a few teams in Friday’s draft, Detroit and Little Caesars Arena made quite an impression on the 18-year-old forward the Red Wings were ecstatic to land with the sixth pick.
Zadina arrived in town for the first time on Monday, received a tour of what figures to be his home for many years, and then donned a No. 11 practice jersey Tuesday during the first day of development camp at the Belfor Training Center inside LCA.
The 6-foot, 197-pound right wing from Halifax (QMJHL) said it was great to be drafted by the Red Wings. He called the city “awesome.” He has seen only a few NHL arenas but described LCA as “unbelievable,” saying he wasn’t sure if he was in a luxury hotel or a rink when equipment manager Paul Boyer gave him a tour.
“When I was on the ice it was awesome feeling,” Zadina said. “The rink is beautiful, probably the best to play in NHL.
Zadina is aware of the excitement he has stirred among the fan base.
“Every single day when I’m going through to check the Instagram, 200 more followers, so I just want to say thanks because it’s unbelievable, the people here,” he said.
It is rare for a player to jump from major junior hockey to the NHL, but the Red Wings believe the offensively gifted Zadina has a good chance to make the roster in the fall.
“That’s good to hear,” Zadina said. “I need to prove to them that I’m a good player and that I deserve it. I got a chance, but I need to take it and I need to play my best hockey.”
He added: “It’s going to be very hard for me, but if I play my hockey and I’ll be patient, work hard, it’s going to be good.”
Zadina is skating against fellow prospects this week in a camp that concludes with a scrimmage on Saturday. But he has faced older competition.
“Two seasons ago, I played against men (for Pardubice HC in the Czech League), so I know what I have to expect from the men’s hockey,” Zadina said. “Last season I went to national camp (the Czech Republic). I’ll be prepared and hopefully I’ll be battling for my spot.”
Red Wings director of player development Shawn Horcoff said he likes Zadina’s character after being around him for only a couple of days, calling him a hard worker.
“He wanted to skate and work out (Monday), not realizing what the week is going to entail,” Horcoff said. “He might have thought differently, if he knew how the practice was going to go today.
“He wants to make an impression. Obviously, he’s disappointed with where he got drafted, which is impressive for us. He’s come out, he’s confident he can score, we’re hoping he does, because that’s what we’re going to need.
“Obviously, he’s got a fantastic shot, really good, quick release. He’s very agile. So, I think for the first day, with all new equipment – he only brought his skates – it was pretty impressive.”
Zadina, after being drafted at American Airlines Center in Dallas, told media he wants to “fill up their nets with pucks,” referring to the teams that passed on him (namely Montreal, Ottawa and Arizona). He was told that Joe Veleno, another player who unexpectedly dropped on Friday and was selected 30th by the Red Wings, wants to help him do it.
“He’s a good guy, so if we would play together it would be awesome,” Zadina said. “He’s a good center, so we could play well together. If he will help me to pass the puck and I can score the goals, it would be awesome.”
Zadina is happy the Red Wings selected his Halifax teammate, defenseman Jared McIsaac, with the 36th pick.
“It’s a pretty good feeling because we know each other well from Halifax and we played together all season, and it’s just big advantage for me that I can have a pretty good friend from Halifax,” Zadina said.