International Ice Hockey Federation

All eyes on Zadina

All eyes on Zadina

Reporters discuss top prospect, Czech hopes

Published 10.04.2017 19:33 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
All eyes on Zadina
While Filip Zadina is still adjusting to the Czech Extraliga, he could provide much-needed scoring again at the U18 World Championship. Photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
The Czech Republic last won the World Juniors in 2001 and the Worlds in 2010. So when a top prospect like Filip Zadina comes along, people get excited.

Zadina, now 17, was the youngest player on the Czech World U18 squad that finished seventh at last year’s tournament in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The 186-cm, 86-kg winger’s four goals in five games led the team, and he earned kudos from the Czech coach, Robert Reichel, whose legendary status is secure with the 1998 Olympic gold and three World titles (1996, 2000, 2001).

“We put him on the first line and he scored lots of goals,” Reichel said of this Pardubice product. “He’s very young and he has to work hard because he can have a good hockey career. It’s up to him if he will keep doing stuff like he did.”

Even though Zadina struggled to produce offence with HC Pardubice in the Czech Extraliga this season, he racked up 18 points in 20 games with the club’s U20 squad. And he should be a go-to guy again at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. The Czech Republic’s biggest success in this tournament was 2014’s surprising silver.

For more perspective on Zadina and the future trajectory of Czech hockey, we chatted with four Czech-based hockey writers.

Matej Hejda, based in Prague, writes for the Czech newspaper MF Dnes and has covered the top Czech league for the last seven years. He also covered the Calgary Flames for one season.

For those who haven’t seen Filip Zadina play, how would you describe him?

He is a pure goal scorer. Great shot, good vision. He has the size to be a solid power forward. His father Marek played in the Czech league for many years. He was a more technical player. Filip could be stronger, for sure. I think he also needs to improve his skating.

What makes his native Pardubice interesting both as a hockey club and as a city?

Pardubice fits into the tradition of Czech hockey towns like Kladno and Litvinov. It’s bigger than either of those places, but still hockey is the number one sport there. They’ve spawned a number of quality hockey players: Vladimir Martinec, Dominik Hasek, Milan Hejduk, Ales Hemsky, Petr Prucha. But right now, they’re not in a particularly good situation. They’ve lost some sponsors and don’t have as much money as they used to have. They have a big rivalry with Hradec Kralove, which is nearby.

Four Czechs were selected in the 2016 NHL Draft. Is Czech hockey going in the right direction?

Four is not good enough, in my opinion. Expectations were for around six or seven players. I think Czech hockey is going in the right direction, but much slower than everyone hoped. We have some decent prospect. Martin Necas could be a really good first-line center in years to come, but we’re just not on par with Sweden and Finland right now. For example, our pool of offensive defencemen is almost empty. Guys like Jakub Zboril, Libort Hajek, and Filip Hronek have some potential. But if you look at the NHL right now, we do not have any top-flight defencemen.

Derek O’Brien, the Prague-based editor-in-chief of, is also a contributor to

What’s the word on Zadina?

There was a lot of hype around him coming off his Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup performance (5-2-7 in four games) and he made the top pro team as a 16-year-old. He’s still dominant at the under-20 level, but not quite ready for prime time, it seems. But he’s just 17, so surely it’s nothing to worry about.

What’s impressed you when you’ve seen him live?

In the Ivan Hlinka gold medal game last year, he was already known to be the top offensive threat on the Czech team, and yet he still managed to score twice in a 4-3 win over the United States. What I noticed was, even when he was the focus of the other team's attention, he was still able to get loose in good shooting areas. And his shot is excellent.

Pavel Barta writes for Sports Daily, and has covered four Olympics and multiple IIHF World Championships dating back to 1985, plus World Juniors and World Cup/Canada Cup tournaments.

How do you assess Filip Zadina?

He’s a smart goal-scorer with good positioning, release and timing. You could liken him to a poor man’s version of Rick Nash. He’s not a real playmaker. He needs a skilled teammate to load up his shots and create scoring chances (like fellow U18 star Martin Necas). If he gets a chance, he can be very dangerous. If not, he sometimes seems a little lost.

Where do you predict he will go in the 2018 NHL Draft?

Either late in the first round or early in the second round. Let’s see what happens next season as well.

Zuzana Botikova is a Slovak-born, Prague-based correspondent for Radio Slovakia International.

How much domestic media coverage does a top prospect like Filip Zadina get?

In general, junior hockey is not a big media topic in either the Slovak and Czech mainstream media. Of course, thanks to the recent success at the Ivan Hlinka, there has been some coverage of budding stars like Zadina. But it’s more on specialized hockey sites, while not really in the sport sections of the mainstream media. It is an interesting phenomenon, I have to note, especially in light of how junior hockey leagues are followed in Canada or the USA. So yeah, the name of Filip Zadina might be recognized among some devoted hockey fans, but not as much among the wider sports-loving public.

As a Slovak, how would you describe the current hockey rivalry with the Czechs?

The rivalry between the Czechs and Slovaks is ever-present. It hasn’t changed that much, even though the Czechs are performing significantly better. However, while the Czechs might cheer for the Slovaks if their national team is out and the Slovaks advance – which doesn’t happen that much anymore – I think the Slovaks are less likely to cheer for the Czechs. They are the younger brothers, who always want to stand up to their old rivals.


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