Almost two years later, Zadina played 37 games with the Red Wings, including 28 in the 2019-20 season. Meanwhile, the Czech native also played 80 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American League. During his time with the Griffins, he amassed 25 goals and 51 points. A healthy total, but mired with inconsistencies.
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After receiving a call to the Red Wings in late November 2019, Zadina stayed with the team due to various injuries throughout the list. However, the 20-year-old looked better and better over time, and he increased the lineup accordingly. After scoring 15 points in 28 games – good for the ninth team score – many believe it is time for the young winger to join the team full time next season.
Pick up where it left off
Zadina’s season derailed when he broke his ankle in early February. Before that, he had played at least 17 minutes in 4 straight games, the highest total being at 8:51 p.m. Jan. 22 against the Minnesota Wild. He became a real top six striker for a team lacking firepower.
Unlike last year’s nine-game cameo appearance, Zadina has been patient with the puck this season. Instead of relying too much on his shooting abilities, he would manipulate the puck and wait for the shot or passing lanes to open. He became more of a playmaker on the right side – a welcome addition to the Red Wings’ lineup.
Just as Zadina adapted from the 2018-19 season, the opposing defenses will adapt to him the next time he sees him. He was given too much time to hold the puck and generally made them pay. My first guess is that he will face a much more aggressive defense next time, with the teams knowing that he is no longer a pony in one round.
Recent developments in the way the NHL will determine the draft in the middle of a suspended season suggest that the Red Wings will spot first or second overall. They will add an impact player, and it is very likely that this individual will see the NHL ice cream starting next season. This greatly affects the programming of the Red Wings.
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In his off-season plan, our own Tony Wolak projected Quinton Byfield – ranked as the second best hope in the 2020 draft – joining the Red Wings as a third-line winger from the start. If the Red Wings added the top ranked prospect, Alexis Lafrenière (which would have a 57% chance of doing so under the current NHL lottery proposal), he might be able to immediately switch to a role of second line. Adding a perspective of this caliber is obviously a huge boost to the Red Wings range.
With Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha and Robby Fabbri, there is only one winger to win in the top six. Without knowing who will write the Red Wings, it is easy to place Zadina in this empty place. However, depending on who the team adds to the draft and how they behave from the start, there could be a battle for positioning in the lineup (for the record, it’s a sign of depth – it’s a good thing! )
Where is he going?
Zadina’s screening on the draft day was a frontline winger who plays in the vein of David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins. To date, Zadina is part, if not the best prospect, of the Red Wings system because of this potential. He is key to rebuilding the Red Wings, and helping him reach this potential is of utmost importance to the organization.
But he’s not there yet, and he probably won’t be there from next season. in fact, despite playing 244 minutes with the team’s top center, Dylan Larkin, the duo didn’t integrate well at all. Together, they had a shared Corsi% (a measure of the number of offensive chances a team of a player gets while on the ice) of only 38.8% (by Natural Stat Trick.) Both players have seen their individual Corsi rates increase when separated from each. It may have been a byproduct of the team’s lack of awareness and overall difficulties, but as long as Larkin maintains the top line, Zadina shouldn’t be up there.
Instead, Zadina currently fits better as a secondary option, somewhere in the middle of the six. This should prevent him from facing the best defenders of opposing teams, while playing significant minutes in a scoring role. Two players with whom Zadina has shown chemistry this season were veterans Darren Helm and Valtteri Filppula. Although not optimal, this trio could be a good sneaky third line, according to the attackers available to play the second line.
In Helm’s case, Zadina saw their Corsi% increase by 15% (!) Together, the pair had a Corsi% of 57.39%. They only played 70 minutes together, so the sample size is certainly small, but there may be something to it.
Insight into the future
One thing is certain: the 2020-21 season marks the start of the rest of Zadina’s career. With two years remaining on his entry-level contract, the Red Wings will want him to transition from “future star” to current actress as soon as possible. The duration of their reconstruction strongly depends on whether or not they can reach their projections on the day of the project.
As the Red Wings are almost guaranteed to add a new star perspective to this year’s draft, the fruits of reconstruction will take center stage. The potential addition of a player like Lafrenière or Byfield changes the franchise. Being able to pair it with top talent like Zadina’s potential suggests, will prepare the Red Wings for the next 10 to 15 years.
The next phase of this process begins next season, and it’s up to Zadina to seize the moment. After this year’s draft, it will certainly no longer be the brightest thing in the Red Wings’ treasure chest. He has all the tools to make it work and to remind people why he was so appreciated only two years ago.