Two months of the QMJHL season are in the books for the Halifax Mooseheads and a star European rookie is well on his way to having his name being mentioned among some of the greatest players in team history.
Filip Zadina, who turned 18 years-old on Monday, is the QMJHL scoring leader with 38 points in 27 games played by virtue of his 19 goals and 19 assists. His goal total is also the best in the league to this point. NHL Central Scouting has the Czech Republic native listed as an “A” prospect on their players to watch for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, while Sportsnet and TSN analysts both have him pegged to be a top 10 selection next June. There is obviously a lot of hockey to be played between now and then but it is a good time to start comparing numbers with some famous Mooseheads non-drafted rookie Import players from years gone by.
TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button has no doubt Zadina won’t be waiting long to hear his named called from the podium.
“He can beat you so many different ways and he becomes dangerous in so many different ways. He’s right in the mix there in the top part of the draft.”
Sportsnet Junior Hockey analyst Sam Cosentino took those sentiments one step further.
“I would project Zadina to be comfortably in the top ten, but more likely in the top five picks,” he said.
“Zadina is as well rounded a player as there is available in this draft class. He is a sniping winger who has the ability to play responsibly in all three zones and is effective dots down, be it in front of the net or in the corners.”
Zadina is keeping pace with some of the best like Nikolaj Ehlers and Jakub Voracek while Nico Hischier’s numbers were only slightly better by the 27 game mark. Hischier had an incredible November last season when he scored 14 goals and 11 assists which boosted his 27 game total to 45 points, seven better than Zadina. Hischier of course is in a league of his own here and ended up becoming the second Mooseheads player ever to be selected first overall in the NHL.
General Manager Cam Russell has drafted his fair share of exciting players via the CHL Import Draft and described what makes Zadina a special player.
“His work ethic, drive and high skill level enables him to create scoring chances in almost any situation. He is determined to score and is not afraid to go into the dirty areas in order to do that,” he said.
TSN’s Button sees more CHL and international junior hockey than most. He has watched Zadina on numerous occasions going back to his U16-U18 international appearances with the Czech Republic. Button said Zadina possesses the all of the requisite qualities needed to become an NHL player but he believes the forward has something extra special that sets him apart from most others.
“The one thing that has always really impressed me about Filip is he’s a player that when you’re watching the game he’s so dialed in to where opportunity may ensue and he’s ready to take advantage. Some players have a good shot or good hands, but they’re not as dialed in as Filip.”
Fellow countryman Jakub Voracek posted 37 points through 27 games on 14 goals and 23 assists in 2006-07 with the Mooseheads. He went on to be taken seventh overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets the following June. Denmark’s Nikolaj Ehlers played on an offensively potent Mooseheads team as a rookie in 2013-14. He scorched the opposition for 49 goals while playing on Jonathan Drouin’s wing. That goal total was the fourth most in a season in team history. Ehlers’ numbers are slightly behind the pace of Zadina however. The Winnipeg Jets sniper had 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points in his first 27 games in the QMJHL. Ehlers had the benefit of playing alongside Drouin for the duration of the second half of the season and finished with 104 points, a number that would be tough for Zadina to reach this season especially with the likelihood of him missing a handful of games in order to participate in the World Junior Hockey Championship for the Czech Republic.
Other notable star European forwards to suit up for the Mooseheads in recent memory include; Timo Meier and Martin Frk. Both players have October birthdays meaning they played two seasons in the QMJHL before they were eligible for the NHL Entry Draft which makes it difficult to compare their numbers with these players. Meier scored 34 points in 66 games during his rookie campaign, and exploded for 90 points in 61 games the following season before the Sharks made him the ninth overall pick in June 2015. Frk’s first season in Halifax was 2010-11 when he tallied 50 points in 62 games on a team that just squeaked into the playoffs with a 20-43-2-3 record. He put up 29 points in 34 games during an injury plagued 2011-12 season and was selected 49th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round of the 2012 draft.
Everyone remembers the historic season by Ladislav Nagy in 1998-99 when he had 71 goals and 55 assists for 126 points but of course although he was a rookie, he was 19-years-old and had already been drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 1997. Not to mention that was a much different era in the QMJHL.
Fans in Moose Country have been extremely fortunate by being able to say they witnessed all of these talented players before they became NHL stars and Button not only thinks Zadina is right there with the rest of the big names to have worn a Mooseheads jersey but he has a certain quality that will help him no matter what team calls his name at the draft.
“To me when I watch him play and I start to consider what he can do at the NHL level, he can play with all kinds of players. You know it’s not just him being adaptable, he adapts to them as well. He understands what his teammates’ strengths are and supports that.”
The talent of Zadina has brought hundreds of NHL scouts to the rinks to watch him play this season along with his draft eligible teamates Jared McIsaac, Benoit-Olivier Groulx and Alex Gravel.
Russell and his scouting staff do their due diligence each year by seeing as many events and players as they can which has obviously paid off in terms of the number of quality import players the organization has been able to develop. He credits the coaching staff for doing an excellent job in helping those players become adjusted to the North American game and said a good word from some Mooseheads alumni goes a long way.
“We have had help from our past players who have spoken highly of the Mooseheads organization. Sometimes your best ambassadors are your former players.”
The next home game for Zadina and the Mooseheads at Scotiabank Centre is scheduled for Friday night at 7pm vs Rouyn-Noranda while the Mooseheads will also host Val d’Or on Saturday at 7pm in the first ever Nurse Appreciation Night. Both games are 7pm starts. Tickets are on sale now at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office, select Superstore Outlets, TicketAtlantic.com, the Official Mooseheads Shop in Scotia Square or call 451-1221.