The feel-good story of young San Jose Sharks winger Filip Zadina

Jan 6, 2024; San Jose, California, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Martin Jones (31) makes a
Jan 6, 2024; San Jose, California, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Martin Jones (31) makes a / Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL is a results based business, and it is incredibly cutthroat. If you are not up to the standard, you find yourself out of the league. Players look for sanctity in the form of term on their contracts. That tends to be very difficult to find. If players could find long term contracts, they'd take it at almost every chance they can. It's extremely rare to see a player forego money and job security to try and prove they are worth more in the long term.

This is the case of Filip Zadina. Going into the 2018 NHL draft, Zadina was seen as someone that would likely go third or fourth overall. Behind Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov, the Czech forward was considered to be a comparable to players like Brady Tkachuk, and was even ranked above defenseman like Evan Bouchard and Quinn Hughes. But the late rise of young Finnish forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi meant the Montreal Canadiens took him third overall. Tkachuk went 4th to Ottawa, and Arizona took Barre Hayton 5th, meaning Zadina fell to 6th, where the Detroit Red Wings grabbed him.

Vowing to make the three teams that declined the chance to take him regret their decision, he swore he would fill their net with pucks. You have to appreciate the determination and confidence in his own ability. He went to the Red Wings, and he got a nine game trial in the 2018-19 season. He had a goal and two helpers, but spend the majority of the year in Grand Rapids in the AHL, tallying 16 goals and 19 assists for 35 points in 59 games.

The following season, he started to bounce between the two teams. In 21 games with the Griffins, Zadina tallied nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 21 games. At the NHL level, he played 28 games, adding eight goals and seven assists to his career totals. He struggled to get into the flow of things in the NHL. The following season, he played with the Wings in 49 games, but only had six goals and 13 assists for 19 points. He followed that ip with 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points in 74 games.

Last season, he played in 30 games with the Red Wings, scoring three goals and four assists for seven points. He hadn't lived up to his draft pedigree in Detroit. He played two games with the Griffins, scoring a goal. Still unable to cement himself into the lineup as a fulltime NHL player, Zadina was making $1.825 million per year on his deal, and he could have just been content making his money, but Zadina decided to bet on himself. He parted ways with the Red Wings organization in the summer leaving a lot of money on the table.

He joined the San Jose Sharks making $1.1 million, taking a paycut for the chance to prove that he is worth more than the money he was making, and to prove that he belongs in the NHL. So far, Zadina has played in 38 games, and he's starting to prove he's worth it. He's got five goals and seven assists. 12 total points, and he's already halfway to his career highs. If he has a strong second half to the season, he could realistically pass it. Then next year, when the team is a little better, he could be a true breakout candidate.

This isn't to say anything is certain with Zadina's future. He may not be a Shark, since he his contract will expire at the end of the year. San Jose will hold his rights as an RFA, but he's given the team a reason to believe in him. He needs to have a good second half to the season through, otherwise he may find himself out of the NHL. Taing his foot off the gas pedal right now would be a big mistake.