Nova Scotia

Nico 2.0? Halifax Moosehead's strong world junior play fuelling NHL draft hype

Hockey scout Chris Mooring sees a lot in common between Halifax Mooseheads star Filip Zadina and former Moosehead Nico Hischier, who was drafted first overall by the New Jersey Devils at the 2017 NHL Draft.

'He was sensational,' hockey writer says about how Filip Zadina played at the world juniors

Filip Zadina of the Czech Republic celebrates his goal against Canada in the first period during the IIHF World Junior Championship on Jan. 4, 2018, in Buffalo, N.Y. (Getty Images)

Hockey scout Chris Mooring sees a lot in common between Halifax Mooseheads star Filip Zadina and former Moosehead Nico Hischier, who was drafted first overall by the New Jersey Devils at the 2017 NHL draft.

"This time last year, we were moving Hischier up in our rankings," he said.

Mooring is the head Atlantic Canada scout for International Scouting Services (ISS), a scouting company for hockey prospects. It currently has Zadina as the fourth-best prospect.

One year ago, ISS had Hischier pegged as the third-best prospect for the 2017 NHL draft.

"I'm not saying that's going to happen with Zadina because there's some good talent in front of him," said Mooring, but he said Zadina could go top three.

Filip Zadina (left), Benoit-Olivier Groulx (centre) and Alex Gravel (right) of the Halifax Mooseheads have all been named to the NHL Central Scouting's players to watch list for the 2018 NHL draft. A fourth player, Truro's Jared McIsaac, also made the list. (Richard Woodbury/CBC)

A year ago, Hischier was playing for Switzerland at the world junior championship

The tournament brings together the world's elite junior hockey players and a strong showing can help boost a prospect's draft rankings. At this year's tournament, Canada won gold after a late-game goal against Sweden in the championship on Friday.

Zadina was at the tournament, suiting up for the Czech Republic, which lost to the U.S. 9-3 in the bronze-medal game.

Still, Zadina didn't disappoint. 

"He was sensational," said Brett Slawson, a writer for the hockey website

Filip Zadina was a standout player at the IIHF World Junior Championship. (Getty Images)

Slawson said Zadina's skating and his accurate and hard shot have been impressive.

"What stood out most to me is his confidence with the puck. He's very creative, he's never pressured into making plays, doesn't turn the puck over a whole lot, so just his confidence and maturity in the game really stood out to me," said Slawson.

In the website's list of the top 31 NHL prospects for January, Slawson has Zadina pegged as the No. 3 pick, but said he could see him being selected second overall.

Zadina has made an immediate impact upon joining the Mooseheads this season. The 18-year-old rookie leads the team in scoring with 24 goals and 46 points in 32 games.

Drake Batherson, shown during his time with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, was the only Atlantic Canadian on Team Canada's roster at the world juniors this year. (Mike Sullivan)

Zadina appears poised to continue the remarkable run Halifax Mooseheads players have had at the NHL draft. Some recent selections include:

  • Nico Hischier, drafted first overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2017.
  • Timo Meier, selected ninth overall by the San Jose Sharks in 2015.
  • Nikolaj Ehlers, picked ninth overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 2014.
  • Nathan MacKinnon, drafted first overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013.
  • Jonathan Drouin, selected third overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013.

Zadina isn't the only player with ties to Nova Scotia who turned heads at the world junior championship.

Drake Batherson, who grew up in New Minas, N.S., suited up for Canada and was arguably the biggest surprise of the tournament for Team Canada. A fourth-round pick by the Ottawa Senators in last year's NHL draft, he wasn't even invited to Team Canada's summer selection camp, but made the team.

Leading up to Friday's semifinal and final games, American Kieffer Bellows was tied for the tournament lead with seven goals. Who was he tied with? Zadina and Batherson.