Red Wings of Tomorrow is assessing every prospect in the Detroit Red Wings system and what they are projecting to be in the future. We’ll be looking at the strengths and weaknesses of their game, as well as what the future holds for them as they advance through the Detroit organization. Today, we feature left wing Pasquale Zito
Position: Left Wing
How Acquired: Selected 166th overall, 2021 NHL entry draft
2021-22 Stats: 49-22-20-42 (with Windsor Spitfires OHL)
Contract Status: Unsigned
Anticipated 2022-23 Team: Windsor Spitfires
Pasquale Zito started out the season right last September. Even Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman noticed how hard he played at the Prospects Tournament at Traverse City.
“We were down to nine forwards,” Yzerman told the Windsor Star about the final game of the tournament. “Some of these kids hadn’t played, like Pasquale Zito didn’t play last year.
“I thought he looked really good out there for someone who hadn’t played (and) for someone who’s 18 years old. He hung in there good. Some of these teams had guys that have been pro for a few years or that have just left college and are 23-, 24-years-old (and) he did well for an 18-year-old.”
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 14, 2022
Maybe Yzerman’s words gave Zito a jolt of confidence. After not playing a single game in 2020-21 because of Covid, he was fifth in goals this season on a high-scoring Spitfires team.
He had an impressive OHL season, contributing to the Spitfires reaching the OHL championship series. They came within one win of reaching the Memorial Cup. Zito scored a late, memorable third-period breakaway goal to force a Game 7 against Hamilton.
The Spitfires lost that game but Zito clearly established himself as a player who can rise up
Estimated Time of Arrival in Detroit
Improvement. Progress. Determined. Those are words that can be associated with Zito this season. If you look at his advanced stats, his increased production, his leadership and his energy, it’s not hard to convince yourself that he has a shot to be an NHLer. He is not a slam dunk. But the intangibles are strong in this one.
He’s a smart, dependable, two-way player. He can skate and help a team in a variety of ways. He can be a spark plug, an energy guy. Zito fits the profile of a bottom-six NHL forward.
It’s still early to make any long-term predictions. He just turned 19 this month, and let’s not forget that he missed an entire season of development. Next season will be critical to his development.
Presuming the Red Wings will sign him, he would likely play his first pro season in Grand Rapids in 2023-24. Then, he will have to earn his way to Detroit. He certainly has a chance, maybe even a better chance than you would expect for a sixth-round pick.