Mika Zibanejad, C Djurgarden (SWEDEN)
Born: April 18, 1993 in Huddinge, Sweden
Strengths: The best Europe-based forward prospect for 2011 and zooming up boards a legitimate power center option. Outstanding pivot with size, skating, sense, shot and spirit. Doesn't have elite first-step or high-end speed, but will get more powerful as he gets stronger in his leg drive. More quick than fast- elusive, but gets where he needs to and should be able to tweak his mechanics a bit with some power skating work. Has very good edge control and leans into players, using his strength to get to the net. Has the ability to separate with breakway speed, but is more of a straight ahead player than a shifty, elusive one. Already plays a physical game and still has some growing and filling out to do. Willing and energetic hitter. Excellent puckhandler who sees the ice well, has soft hands and a quick, heavy shot. Knows how to find the soft areas of the offensive zone and isn't afraid to unload when the shooting lanes are there. Slick passer/playmaker as well. Plays with some fire and competitiveness- wants to be the best player on the ice and has some real swagger and personality. Good, solid defensive awareness. Not a stellar defensive player, but will backcheck and play responsibly in his own end. A kid who exudes personality, passion and determination- you can read it in his face and actions on the ice.
Weaknesses:Not many weaknesses to find in Zibanejad's game. Initial quickness and first step need to improve along with agility and footwork, but is a wide-base skater, so he should be able to address this with speed/agility drills and off-ice plyometrics. Also has a bit of a temper- must learn to keep his emotions in check and not take bad penalties.
Zibanejad goes head-to-head against Adam Larsson- and wins (ThaAngelus1)
Mika gives John Klingberg a ride into the bench
Mika Zibanejad combine video (apologize for poor quality- he was mobbed by media and he speaks softly- hard to make out his responses in some parts)
Hockey's Future's Ken McKenna was in on all of the player interviews at the 2011 combine, so you might get more out of his video here.
Style compares to: Jason Arnott
Draft prediction: Another player whose stock has shot through the roof since about November- it was thought just two months ago that the Bruins would have a shot at him at ninth overall, but it is looking like less and less the case, with teams picking ahead of the B's expressing great interest in Zibanejad. The player B2011DW has called the "Persian Prince" for some time now because of his Iranian heritage has the size, skill and temperament to be an NHL star and that feeling will be reflected in where he goes at the draft. He could be a top-five pick and shouldn't get past 6 or 7.
Projection: First- or second-line center with 30+ goal, 80+ point upside. Has the all-around game to be a top third-liner even if he doesn't develop the offense as anticipated, but given that he'll likely be going to a rebuilding team, Zibanejad will be given every opportunity for ice time and to excel in the NHL. He plays a physical, North American-style game already and should become an instant fan favorite.
Background:Born in Sweden of Iranian and Finnish parentage. Last name pronounced ZEE-bahn-eh-zhad (soft "j" sound- and we got that from Mika himself). Half-brother Monir Kalgoum, plays professional hockey in the UK for the Milton Keynes Lightning of the English Premier League. Started out in the Hammarby IF system (at age 6) until 2008 when he shifted to AIK IF after Hammarby went insolvent. Acquired by Djurgarden during the '09-10 season and broke through on the top pro squad in '10-11 (5-4-9 points in 26 Elitserien games) after starting the year in the Under-20 junior ranks. A 2010 KHL draft pick of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Signed two-year contract with Djurgarden which will run through 2013 season. A final cut of the 2011 Swedish World Junior (Under 20) team. Earned a silver medal with the Swedish Under-18 squad in Germany, just 1:29 from beating the Americans for gold, leading the team in scoring with 8 points (4 goals) in six games (tied with Gustav Bjorklund). Speaks Swedish, English and Finnish.
If Zibanejad had his own soundtrack it would be: "Feed The Machine"- Red
""Zibanejad is a high-end guy- he's a top-15 pick, no question. If he's there at nine, the Bruins have to consider him."- NHL scout to Bruins2011DraftWatch, April 2011
"Plays on the wing internationally but is more effective at centre- his position in league play. 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."- Red Line Report 2011 Draft Guide; June, 2011
"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."- NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb To read Mike G. Morreale's NHL.com article on Zibanejad click here
"Suffered due to playing on the wing with struggling (Victor) Rask who was unable to deliver the puck. Very good hands, receives tough passes well in stride. Makes saucer passes through traffic. Has vision and creativity- frankly is more natural at centre. Drives the net hard."- Red Line Report, March, 2011
"Continues to elevate his stock at this tournament as he has done for most of the season. Had an explosive game versus Norway and leads Team Sweden in scoring with four goals and seven points in four contests. Zibanejad has been a B2011DW favorite because he can skate and has good hands, but brings size and a high energy level with him to the ice. This is a kid who loves to play and never stops moving his feet. He goes hard to the net, does the honest work in the corners and loves to use the body. He's nowhere near as as strong as he will be, so it's encouraging to see how effective he is on the physical side of things already. The only real concerns with the Persian Prince (his father is Iranian) is whether his abilities will translate into a high-end scorer at the NHL level. Most think he has solid top-six forward potential, but that's what will see him earn a draft grade around or even inside the top-10."- Bruins 2011 Draft Watch; April, 2011
Lighthouse hockey feature on Zibanejad (which has quotes from your favorite draft site and mine)
Zibanejad's skills a secret no more by Mike G. Morreale at NHL.com