From the junior hockey factory that produced the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Nikolaj Ehlers, Timo Meier and Nico Hischier—among others—hails Filip Zadina, a dynamic Czech forward who possesses the skill to become an NHL superstar in the near future.
That’s why he’s slated to go in the top three of this year’s NHL Draft.
“Filip is different than MacKinnon, Drouin and Hischier,” Halifax Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell told J.F. Chaumont of Le Journal de Montreal recently. “He’s a pure scorer and a power forward.
“We always say we want to see more goals in the NHL, more of an exciting game. Filip fits that criteria and he’ll attract a lot of fans to NHL arenas.”
He could be doing it as early as next season.
Here’s what you need to know about Filip Zadina.
Team: Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL
From: Pardubice, Czech Republic
Weight: 192 pounds
Position: Left Wing
HE’S A SNIPER
This kid became a household name right around December, when he shipped off to the World Junior Championship and scored seven goals in seven games for the Czech Republic.
“He’s got an all-world shot,” one amateur scout told Sportsnet in a recent interview. “You’re looking at what appears to be a guaranteed 30-goal scorer in the NHL.”
Your eyes did not deceive you if you watched Zadina perform at the WJC. And if you caught a glimpse of him through his 44-goal campaign with the Mooseheads this season, chances are you got confirmation of what the scouts have come to appreciate most about Zadina.
If you didn’t, enjoy this sample.
A NATURAL ON THE SMALL ICE
When it comes to import players, you always want to know how quickly they’ll adapt to the North American game.
It says something of Zadina’s hockey sense that there didn’t appear to be any real transition period for him in moving to the small ice in Halifax after skating on Olympic ice for his entire career.
“Of all the [European] guys he’s probably adapted the easiest,” Russell told our Daniel Nugent-Bowman back in January. “Typically, it can take two to four to six weeks for the guys to get used to the smaller rinks. It just seemed like he jumped into it right away and looked at home right from the start.”
SUCCESS STARTS AT HOME
And sometimes it develops at someone else’s home.
Zadina’s billet family this season is the same one that took care of last year’s first overall pick in the NHL Draft.
Ash and Mandy Phillips—and their kids Ethan and Megan—played key roles in helping Hischier mature and adapt to North American life a season ago, and they did just the same for Zadina this year.
“I treat them like I would want someone to treat my son,” Ash told Mike Morreale of NHL.com back in March. “I tell them to keep their dress shoes shined, hold the door for women, always stand up when shaking hands and look the individual in the eye. Another big rule is there are no hats allowed at the table during dinner. It was a rule that my father had and I maintain it in my house as respect to him. These boys are so successful in their hockey lives that I want to teach them simple respect and small areas of living a disciplined life.”
Those are invaluable lessons to learn for young adults who are expected to be as professional from Day 1 in the NHL as 30-year-old veterans are.
It’s no wonder Hischier and Zadina built special bonds with the Phillipses.
“They were there when I needed them,” Hischier told Morreale. “They’re awesome people.”
Two weeks before coming to North America, Zadina learned the Phillips family would be taking him in.
“I was excited,” Zadina told Morreale. “Hischier is now playing in the NHL and one of the best young players in the league, so I certainly want to follow in his footsteps.”
It won’t be long now…
THE HALIFAX MOOSEHEADS KEEP CHURNING OUT ACES
It’s the house that built some of the best names in the NHL today.
MacKinnon was a Calder Trophy winner after being drafted first overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013. Drouin has averaged .58 points per game since going third overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning that same year, and he’s expected to be a star with the Montreal Canadiens for years to come. Ehlers went to the Winnipeg Jets as the ninth pick in the 2014 draft and he’s produced back-to-back 60-point seasons. Meier, the ninth pick in the 2015 draft who broke out with 21 goals this season, was one of the best San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And then there’s Hischier, who jumped right in with the New Jersey Devils this season and scored 20 goals and 52 points.
That’s a lot for Zadina to live up to, but the sense is he’ll be up there with the best of them.
“All-in-all, Zadina can be categorized as both a two-way forward with a well-rounded game and a dominant offensive force,” says Curtis Joe of Eliteprospects.com.
NHL OR BACK TO JUNIOR?
This is always an important question to be asking about a player projected to graduate to the NHL immediately. The answer in Zadina’s case is going to be a bit harder to come by before seeing him perform alongside NHLers.
The fact is, the Mooseheads are slated to host the Memorial Cup next spring. That potentially makes going back to junior a more worthwhile endeavour than it would be otherwise.
A chance to develop under new head coach Eric Veilleux would certainly have its appeal, too.