Filip Zadina represents one of the biggest hopes in San Jose. Although he doesn’t turn 24 until November, he is preparing to play in his fifth full season in the NHL. Zadina is a former sixth overall draft pick by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2018 NHL Draft. In 190 games, Zadina has scored 28 goals and 40 assists. Zadina’s biggest issue is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He broke his leg blocking a shot last season and missed several months, and has dealt with other lower body injuries. After signing a three-year contract worth $5.475 million in 2022, Zadina asked to terminate his contract with the Red Wings to allow him to be a free agent on July 7. He signed a one-year $1.1 million deal with the San Jose Sharks on July 10.
Zadina was drafted to be a goal scorer. In his draft year with the Halifax Mooseheads, Zadina scored 44 goals in 57 games. That goal-scoring hasn’t carried over once he turned professional. In his first AHL season with the Grand Rapid Griffins, he scored a respectable 16 goals in 53 games as a 19-year-old. It just hasn’t translated to the NHL. Zadina is an interesting case of potentially being rushed into the NHL too soon. While many fans (this writer included) want to see players like William Eklund playing meaningful NHL games, it’s important to surround those young players with the proper talent. Could Zadina have been better suited to go back to the QMJHL for another season or play in Europe for a season before playing a year in the AHL and then making his NHL debut two seasons after his draft?
With the Sharks, Zadina is going to have better support around him. Playing with Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture will be the best centers he has had a chance to play with other than Dylan Larkin. Zadina also doesn’t have the weight of being the franchise’s future bearing down on him, as he was one of the first pieces that the Red Wings added in their rebuild. A physically and mentally healthy player with a better supporting cast could unlock Zadina’s potential.
Where does Zadina fit in?
Heading into training camp, Zadina is expected to make the Sharks out of camp and contribute. While Alexander Barabanov and Anthony Duclair are expected to be top-six wingers, the other two spots are wide open with Zadina, Eklund, Mike Hoffman, and Fabian Zetterlund in the mix. If Zadina can find his shot early in camp and show chemistry with Hertl or Couture, he could be in line for a huge role with the Sharks this season. With the departure of Timo Meier, there are plenty of scoring opportunities available, and Zadina could be the man. While Duclair will probably get the primary opportunities first (definitely not to try and increase his trade value prior to the deadline), Zadina should have more than enough as the Sharks lack natural goal scorers on the wing other than Duclair.
Zadina should have every opportunity to make an impact on the power play. David Quinn will be able to run out two competent units (outside of playing making defenseman), and Zadina is easily one of the best eight offensive forwards on the team. Confidence is the name of the game for Zadina, and getting him some good looks on the power play early in the season could pay dividends for the Sharks in the long run.
What’s next for Zadina?
This has a chance of being one of Grier’s best moves this offseason, buying low on a player with pedigree and giving him a chance. If Zadina works out, he is an RFA next offseason, and the Sharks own his rights; if Zadina has a bad season or can’t stay healthy, Grier can let him walk as players like Thomas Bordeleau and Danil Gushchin push for NHL jobs. For Zadina, he can play on a team that will have plenty of opportunities for him to succeed and will have an infusion of young, talented players coming soon. Zadina is still young enough to be a part of the next core players for the Sharks.
Bold Prediction: Zadina stays healthy and becomes a 20-goal scorer for the Sharks this season.