Czech forward Filip Zadina plays the puck while Sweden's Jesper Sellgren defends. Photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Czech forward scores twice in quarters
Filip Zadina is well on his way to following Nico Hischier’s footsteps to the NHL.
The 18-year-old moved from his native Czech Republic this season to play with Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League where Hischier spent last year.
Not only is Zadina playing for the Mooseheads, he’s even living with the same Dartmouth billet family, Ash and Mandy Phillips, that Hischier stayed with last season in Halifax.
“I’m trying to follow in his steps ‘cause he’s playing in the NHL, he’s one of the best younger guys in the NHL and Halifax helped him a lot,” Zadina said on Tuesday at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Zadina scored twice, including the game-tying goal, for the Czechs in the 4-3 shootout win over Finland in the quarter-finals at the Under-20 tournament. At last year’s tournament, Hischier also scored twice in the quarter-finals, but his Swiss national junior team fell 3-2 to the U.S. – the eventual gold medallists.
The win earns the Czech Republic a berth in the semi-finals for the first time since 2005, and a date with the Canadians on Thursday.
“We will try to play our hockey,” Zadina said of the task ahead. “We want to have fun the next game. We will see what’s going to happen and we’ll play 100 per cent and more. We want to enjoy this game ‘cause it’s an unbelievable game for us. It’s going to be. Hopefully we will play our hockey and we will see what’s going to happen.”
Prior to the start of the tournament Zadina was ranked fourth by ISS Hockey for June’s NHL Draft. The six-foot (184-cm), 190-pound (86-kg) winger is hoping his stock has risen since the start of the Under-20 tournament.
“I am happy (Rasmus Dahlin) will be the first,” he said. “I want to be like second. He’s a good player, really skilled played and I think he deserves (first overall).
“I’m good and I know it.”
Scouts admit Zadina is having an excellent tournament, but he’ll be in tough to go ahead of Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov (Russia) or Brady Tkachuk (U.S.) at the draft.
“A clutch performance, led his team by example,” said Dennis MacInnis, the Director of Scouting for ISS Hockey “Provided leadership and timely goal scoring. Wants to make a difference and make the plays. Great all-around offensive assets, skills, speed and physical edge.”
In 32 games with the Halifax Moosheads prior to the World Juniors, Zadina scored 22 goals and 22 assists. His 46 points are good for second overall in QMJHL scoring.
Zadina was originally selected fourth overall by the Vancouver Giants in the 2016 Canadian Hockey League import draft, but chose to remain at home. After the Mooseheads selected him 11th overall in 2017, he made the move from his hometown of Pardubice.
The likes of Hischier, Nikolaj Ehlers, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin going through the program in Halifax no doubt helped Zadina’s decision making.
“Cause the CHL is playing on the smaller rink and everything is kind of similar to the NHL: the schedule is (similar) and that’s the reason I came to Halifax and to play North American (style) hockey,” Zadina said of the decision. “I think it was a good move for me.
“I saw the Europeans left (and) played in Halifax and moved to the NHL and they played very well in Halifax. That’s one of the reasons I came to Halifax: for development and to be a better player”
Now Zadina and his teammates are hoping to carry their success from the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, where they won gold, to Thursday’s semi-finals. The Czechs are looking for their first medal at the Under-20 tournament since winning bronze in 2005.
“Our age, the ’99-borns, we are a strong age,” he said. “We have good players and we’re trying to play our hockey, fun hockey, that’s most important. There’s good chemistry.
“It’s the same like when we won Hlinka. I remember we lost against Finland, Under-18 in overtime, it was a tough loss, but we won today, (so) I’m more happy.”