Prospect Profile: Mika Zibanejad

Mika Zibanejad (C/RW, 6’2, DOB 1993, 1-6/11)
2009-10 J18 Djurgarden 14-8-12-20 +15 10pim (ppg 1.42) 4th pts
2009-10 SupEl Djurgarden 14-2-2-4 -2 4pim (ppg 0.28) 21st
2010-11 SupEl Djurgarden 27-12-9-21 +18 12pim (ppg 0.77) 7th
2010-11 SEL Djurgarden 26-5-4-9 +1 2pim (ppg 0.34) 17th
2011-12 NHL Ottawa 9-0-1-1 -3 2pim
2011-12 SEL Djurgarden 26-5-8-13 -2 4pim (ppg 0.50) 14th
2011-12 WJC Sweden 6-4-1-5 +2 2pim 7th

Zibanejad, the sixth overall selection in last year’s draft (ranked #2 by Central Scouting; he’s the highest draft pick for Ottawa since picking Jason Spezza second overall in 2001), made the Senators to start the year, but lost his confidence and was loaned back to his club team Djurgarden (with fellow draftee Fredrik Claesson; he also played with Marcus Sorensen back in the day).  He didn’t get the ice time the Sens thought he should as his team went through two coaching changes during the season and also struggled with injuries.  The highlight for Zibanejad was the World Junior Championships, where he scored the gold medal winning goal for Sweden.  He will play with Ottawa or Binghamton next year (Djurgarden’s relegation has nothing to do with that decision).  Prior to the draft Red Line Report compared him to Brendan Morrow, “plays on the wing internationally, but is more natural and effective at center – his position in league play [SEL].  Drives the net hard using his size effectively to power through checks and win battles along the boards.  Plays a physical game, banging opposing players in puck pursuit, winning loose pucks and causing turnovers off an aggressive and determined forecheck.  Creates space for linemates and is tough to separate from the puck.  Has outstanding speed for a big man with a long, smooth, powerful stride that eats up ground.  Has good hands, receiving even tough passes well without breaking stride.  Also has a very heavy shot that he likes to use when busting down the wing with speed.  Good scoring touch around net, but not always instinctive in his offensive reads.  Tough to contain because he’s got so many facets he can beat you with.  Fine defensive effort level.” ISS compared him to Jerome Iginla, “A very intense player, Zibanejad has extremely explosive technical skills combined with great power and a determined work ethic. He applies tremendous physical pressure on the puck carrier in all zones and can really hammer opponents with his hitting ability. He displayed excellent awareness and intelligence away from the puck and is always calculating his next move. Zibanejad drives the net well and never has very much trouble penetrating the middle lanes off the rush with the puck. His hands and offensive timing could still stand to improve as he doesn’t always handle passes well and struggles to deal with bouncing pucks. NHL Potential: Two-way energy player who can fit a variety of roles including special teams and offensive situations.”  Goran Stubb said this about him, “Mika‘s a real power forward but also has soft hands, good vision and fine skating skills. He has tremendous balance and is hard to knock off the puck. He’s very strong in the battles along the boards, finishes checks with authority and has a heavy shot that he gets off quickly.”  You can watch Pierre Dorion and TSN discuss Zibanejad via the links.

Senators News: April 17th

-The Sens talked about last night’s game, with Nick Foligno saying “It’s unfortunate he’s [Alfredsson] not in the lineup, given the circumstances, but I thought we played pretty well without him. Guys were in situations they’re probably not used to playing and I thought they did a pretty good job.”  Kyle Turris said “I’ve got to score on those.  I had an opportunity to tie it up and send it to OT. I missed the net (Monday), I won’t miss the net the next time.”

Mike Hume points out that the trend of shots per game and scoring chances are slanting in Ottawa’s favour as the series has gone on.

-Here’s my review of Binghamton’s season.  Joy Lindsay provides a look at the goaltenders and defensemen, with the most interesting insight being that the coaches picked Eric Gryba as their top defenseman of the year.

Kurt Kleinendorst talked about the season that was, saying “Everyone’s on the same page. The fact that this group never turned on one another, never turned on me  … those things matter. Back in February, it would have been easy for everybody to just pack it in. But that’s not what happened. Guys continued to show up every day and work hard. They showed up every night and competed. For this particular group, as young as we were without the veteran core we needed, it really wasn’t bad. To be honest, I think we overachieved.”  That’s an interesting assessment from the coach, who clearly puts the blame for Binghamton’s record on the lack of veterans (or, perhaps, healthy/the right veterans).

-Florida beat Elmira 5-4, with Brian Stewart serving as the backup and Corey Cowick, Jack Downing, and Bobby Raymond held off the scoresheet (Josh Godfrey did not play)

-Speaking of Elmira, bobbykelly mistakenly implies the Sens black aces were eligible to play for the Jackels during their playoff run, but only players who have played at least 5 ECHL games during a season are available to be sent down (which is not the case for any of the players now in Ottawa)

Mario Lemieux has finally weighed in on his team’s behaviour, saying he’s embarrassed by the Penguins actions.

Dale Hunter says the Bruins are going after Nicklas Backstrom‘s head; I haven’t seen enough of the series to know one way or another, but teams in general have been targeting the heads of players with concussion histories (Neal on Giroux, for one example), so I wouldn’t be surprised.

Ottawa 0, New York Rangers 1

The Senators played an inspired game without Daniel Alfredsson, but their key offensive players came up blank and the team fell to the counter punching Rangers.  The game lacked the circus atmosphere, with referees Brad Watson and Mike Leggo setting the tone early.  Here’s the box score.

First Period
The Sens had two chances in the period, the best coming via a tip from Condra with three minutes left.  Anderson made big saves off Boyle and Dubinsky while Karlsson made a fantastic defensive play on a 2-on-1.
Second Period
Ottawa had four opportunities, including O’Brien unable to get the puck past Bickel into an empty net (the others came from Smith, Foligno on a wrap around, and O’Brien again on a tip).  Spezza also had a great chance but choose to pass instead of shoot.  Fedotenko and Dubinsky had the chances for the Rangers, with Spezza saving the day on the former.  Kuba also made a great defensive play at the end of the period.
Third Period
The Sens had five more great chances to score (beginning with Cowen, then Greening, Condra in the slot, Karlsson in tight, and in the final minute Turris on the doorstep), but couldn’t beat LundqvistAnderson stopped two breakaways (Boyle and Callahan), but couldn’t stop a backhand from Boyle in tight which decided the game.

Here’s a look at the goal:
1. Rangers, Boyle
The puck bounces off the backboards and no one is ready for it except Boyle, who beats Anderson with a backhand to the far side

Top-performers:
Craig Anderson – the Boyle goal was stopable, but he made other great saves that makes this a positive game for him (the team has to score for to win after all)
Jim O’Brien – he played less than 7 minutes but had two glorious scoring opportunities
Erik Karlsson – drove the offense and was excellent defensively

Players Who Struggled:
Jason Spezza – no scoring chances, refused to shoot the puck, and turned the puck over; didn’t step up in Alfredsson’s absence
Milan Michalek – no scoring chances; didn’t step up in Alfredsson’s absence