2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. E2 Mika Zibanejad
June 14, 2011 1 Comment
Other than defenseman Adam Larsson, most hockey fans are not up to date on the latest Europeans that will come out of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. It is tough to call any of them future superstars, because as we know, nothing is a sure thing. But after increasing his stock in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings, Djurgarden center Mika Zibanejad could very well turn into one of the best Swedish centers since Henrik Sedin.
“Mika’s a real power forward but also has soft hands, good vision and fine skating skills,” NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. “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.”
“I would say that I am an all-around-player. I´m quite big and strong. I have a good shot, and I believe I am a pretty good passer who sees the ice pretty well. But my weaknesses are my balance, which I am working hard with, and then I have to be a better skater. I am working hard to be more explosive in my skating. That’s the things I am working on this summer. But overall, a guy my age has to work on improving everything.”
The 6-foot-1, 191-pound Stockholm, Sweden native is an “A+” rated prospect by ESPN.com. Scouts love his size, his speed, and most importantly, his hockey sense. He has great hands that lead to a powerful shot and beautifully-placed passes. His two-way play could use a bit of improvement, but it is still miles ahead of the majority of kids his age. But Zibanejad still looks to NHL superstars for inspiration.
“I watch Sidney Crosby for the work he does at center. I watch Alex Ovechkin for the way he scores goals and I watch Pat Kane for the way he stickhandles,” Zibanejad said in an interview with NHL.com. “I’m not that type of guy to just look for the big hits. I try to play physical but that’s only because I want the puck back. Sometimes you have to finish your checks on defensemen in order to tire them out.”
He also confirmed the rumor that he likes to base his game off the Penguins’ All-Star forward.
“Sidney Crosby is my idol, and I won’t lie and say that I am not trying to be like him,” Zibanejad said in an interview with Dan Sallows. “But at the same time I try to take a few things from him and try to make it in my way. I want people to remember me as Mika, not as a Sidney Crosby-copy. But as I said, it’s always fun and nice to hear that kind of feedback and comparison.”
Playing in Djurgarden, Zibanejad does not get as much ice time as he would hope. However, playing on the third line (and splitting time between the second power play unit and the penalty kill), he still managed five goals and nine points in 26 games in arguably the most talented league in Europe.
And if one of the most talented young players from one of the most talented leagues in Europe comes to the NHL, it’s hard to argue he won’t have success.
Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.