24-Year-Old Center – New York Rangers
Mika Zibanejad Contract Information:
Signed a two-year, $5.25 million contract extension with the Senators in June of 2015. Traded to Rangers in July of 2016.
Zibanejad netted the overtime winner as well as a shorthanded assist and a plus-2 rating in Thursday's Game 5 victory over Montreal.
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Mika Zibanejad: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Zibanejad had a successful first full NHL campaign last season, hitting 20 goals for the first time to go with 46 points, and the question now is whether he's got another gear. At just 22 years old, he's established himself as an NHL regular and the Senators' second-line pivot, but the former No. 6 overall pick is more of a two-way center than an offensive mastermind. From a fantasy perspective but certainly not from a real-life one, he bears something of a resemblance to the Jackets' Brandon Dubinsky, without the PIM -- Zibanejad's got the size, grit and intensity to rack up 200 hits per season eventually, and the slick puck skills to net between 50 and 60 points. Of course, there's no guarantee that he'll leap to that level this year -- it's more likely that he'll approximately replicate last year's production, but perhaps with continued improvement in plus/minus as well as hits and shots.
Zibanejad is still just 23 years old, and is coming off a decent season in 2013-14, during which he collected 16 goals and 17 assists in 69 games. The team continues to have high hopes for the young Swede, and many fans have been begging for him to get a permanent spot in the team's top six. That probably won't happen this year, but keep an eye on Zibanejad's production when he does get a chance to play with more skilled linemates. With veteran David Legwand coming off a disappointing season and only sitting on a two-year contract, it's possible that the team is grooming Zibanejad to be their second-line center in a couple years.
Zibanejad registered seven goals and 13 assists in 42 games with the Senators in 2013, and is yet another part of the future in Ottawa. The 20-year-old has a promising career ahead of him, and could stake out a spot in the top six as the fourth winger behind Milan Michalek, Bobby Ryan, and Clarke MacArthur. If he stays at center, it will be with the third or fourth line, depending on what the team has planned for Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Keep an eye on how the Sens are using him in training camp to see whether or not he'll get the increased opportunities of a top-six forward.
The 19-year-old Swedish forward, the sixth overall pick in 2011, played in Ottawa's first nine regular season games last season before being sent back to Sweden to play for Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League. He scored the golden goal for team Sweden in the finals of the World Junior Menís Hockey Championship against Russia, but once he returned to Sweden, he suffered a concussion and never did find his game for the rest of the season. Now, fully recovered, Zibanejad will look to earn a forward spot on the Senators out of training camp. Big, fast, and skilled, Z-Bad, as he's known, could potentially line up on one of the top two lines, but thatís likely not a realistic scenario. Interestingly enough, while he was drafted as a center, he'll likely play on the wing in Ottawa if he does earn a spot. Heís shown much more offensive flair on the wing than at center, as there is not as much defensive responsibility, something for which heís not known. Should he not make the team, Zibanejad will start the year in the AHL playing for Binghamton. A realistic offensive expectation is for 5-10 goals and 10-15 assists in his first full NHL season. He has a boatloads of potential, but heís still a raw prospect. Those in keeper leagues will want to target Zibanejad in the later rounds.
One of the more NHL-ready players to emerge from the 2011 Entry Draft, Zibanejad will arrive at Ottawa's training camp in September looking to win a spot with the club. Gifted with great puck skills, a big body, and speed to spare, the 6'2", 192 pound center plays a very physical, North American style game. Should he not win a spot with Ottawa out of training camp, Zibanejad will return to Sweden to play for Djurgarden where he'll be expected to play an offensive role, take key faceoffs, and see time on both the penalty kill and powerplay. While we don't expect him to make the 2011-12 version of the Ottawa Senators, Zibanejad should crack the team for good in 2012-13.