7. RC Mika Zibanejad – Djurgarden (SEL)
DOB: Apr. 18/93 | Shoots: R | Height: 6.01 | Weight: 195lbs
Midterm Rank: 25 | League Rank: 2nd SEL | Country Rank: 3rd Sweden
It’s no surprise that Mika Zibanejad has quickly established himself as one of the most coveted forwards in the 2011 NHL Draft. He may not be the fastest skater, or the most talented scorer, but his competitive nature, immense passion for the game, and solid balance of all-around skills make him a player that a lot of teams in the Top 10 would love to get their hands on.
Zibanejad is a big, physical centerman who has been one of the big stories of the season. He’s a pretty strong skater with good balance and power in his stride. Does a good job of protecting the puck and uses his strength to make up for a lack of high-end speed. Refining his stride and trying to add a couple of steps should be a priority for Zibanejad over the course of the next couple of seasons which would help to ease his transition to the NHL.
Offensive skills are pretty inviting and Zibanejad has a good skill-level. Pretty good puckhandler and can create opportunities on his own in the offensive zone. Likes to shoot the puck and has a good, solid release and strong shot power. He had a pretty good season in the Elisterien this season and proved to be a solid offensive threat despite being only 17-years-old.
A big asset to Zibanejad’s game is his competitive edge and willingness to engage physically. He’s a strong kid and he certainly is not afraid to mix things up on a consistent basis. Finishes checks and does not back down from battles in the tough areas on the ice. He has the ability to deliver some big-time checks for a skilled player and can change the dynamic of the game when he’s on the ice. Sometimes his physical play can run him into trouble where he may take an undisciplined penalty, or get rattled and make a poor play, but that’s something that will be improved over time and doesn’t detract from his physical upside.
Two-way play is above-average as Zibanejad has proven to be a pretty good center in all three zones. He does a good job of identifying his man and sticking with him in defensive zone coverage. Zibanejad lets the players know he’s on the ice as he will engage physically and doesn’t give up body position without a fight. Also backchecks pretty well and isn’t the type of player that will be the last man back or dogging it back.
Overall, Zibanejad is about as close to a total package as you’re going to get with forwards in this draft. As a center, he plays an important position and does it very well. He’s a big kid with a physical and nasty edge to his game, pretty good offensive upside, and a strong two-way game. He may never be a big-time scorer at the NHL level, but he projects to at least be a very valuable second-line type player who could easily anchor a first line if he hits his potential.
Pros: Size, Strength, Shot, Physical two-way player
Cons: Lack of top speed, Keeping emotions in check
Skill-set Comparison: Ryan Kesler