GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In his first pro season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Filip Zadina has shown flashes of what made him the sixth overall pick in this year’s NHL draft.
With seven goals so far this season, he’s tied for the second most on the team.
“I’m just trying to stay focused on hockey,” Zadina said. “And don’t think that stuff in my head, that I’m under pressure or something, but just trying to have fun and that’s the most important right now.”
There are plenty of eyes on him.
“There’s all this hype about him,” Griffins head coach Ben Simon said. “Media’s talking about him, radio, TV, there’s a high expectations for him. But this is a hard league to play in.”
But Zadina is settling in and making progress.
“I’m feeling away more comfortable than the beginning of the season,” he said.
Having turned 19 Tuesday, he is the second-youngest player in the AHL.
“It is very difficult,” said Dylan McIlrath, who was the 10th pick overall in the 2010 draft. “I know myself coming in, I was two years older than him and it was still the biggest adjustment for me. Like him, I had a lot of expectation on me early being a high pick. It’s not going to be easy, but he has the work ethic and will push through and he’ going to be a phenomenal player at the NHL level one day.”
While he has struggled at times with the physicality, size on the wall and creating space for himself, Zadina’s work ethic has impressed his veteran teammates.
“You can tell on a daily basis that he’s something special,” team captain Matt Ford said.
Two-time Calder Cup champion Brian Lashoff agreed.
“It’s getting better and better away from the puck. I remember when we had Tomas Tatar here at 18 years old — similar kind of work ethic,” Lashoff said. “He wants to win, he definitely wants to get better, and I think that’s going to carry him a long way because he definitely has the skills.”
It could be a while before he’s called to Detroit, but for now, Zadina will keep learning and moving forward.
“I’m in a good spot right now for Grand Rapids,” Zadina said. “Have fun, work hard and wait for the call-up.”