BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - Mika Zibanejad started to settle into his new home Saturday.
Not only is the Senators’ top pick in the 2011 draft going to have to adjust to living full-time in North America while suiting up for the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton, he’s also going to have to make a bigger shift on the ice.
To try to get him ready for his NHL career, the Senators have elected to use the 19-year-old Swede as a left winger here, so that if the lockout ever does end and the season does start he can be used there in the big leagues.
Zibanejad will do whatever it takes.
“I’ve played pretty much every position: Right wing and centre as well,” said Zibanejad as Binghamton wrapped up its first on-ice session. “I’m comfortable (with the change). I played left, right and centre at the world juniors.
“I played half-and-half back at home as well. I don’t mind the switching around. It’s good to be able to play different positions as well. If it’s going to give me a bigger chance to make the team, it’s good. For me, it doesn’t matter. I just want to go out there and play.”
If the Senators’ training camp ever does start, there aren’t going to be many openings up front. The decision by captain Daniel Alfredsson to return means Zibanejad, countryman Jakob Silfverberg and Mark Stone will battle for a top six spot on the left side.
“The best thing (for Zibanejad) is opportunity,” said Randy Lee, the club’s director of player development. “You want to put a guy with that skill set on your top two lines.
“To design this team, you’re better off to put him on the left side and give him more opportunity to play on the top two lines. If he can make that adjustment here, then that’s going to make him a better player at that top level.”
After suiting up for nine games with the Senators last year, Zibanejad was committed to returning to Djurgarden in the Swedish league. The year was a disaster, the team was horrible and won’t compete in the first division this season after getting relegated.
He tried to make the best of a bad situation. Zibanejad did get a break by suiting up for Team Sweden at the world juniors. He scored the winning goal against Team Canada in the final, but didn’t develop the way Ottawa would have liked.
“Unfortunately, last year didn’t work out the way we would have wanted or hoped,” said Zibanejad. “Everything is a learning experience, especially for me as a young guy.”
Zibanejad, who will find an apartment in Binghamton with former Swedish junior team roommate Fredrik Claussen, said coming to North America was the right move.
“When I got drafted two years ago my mindset was that I was going to play in Djurgarden one more year,” he said.
“I got a good idea last year on how close or how far I was from playing in the NHL. I’ve done what I’ve done back home and now I’m here ready to go.”
THIS ’N’ THAT
C Stephane DaCosta didn’t take part in the afternoon scrimmage because he tightened up after testing and required treatment. Hugh Jessimen left with a shoulder injury and former 67’s C Shane Prince didn’t finish the scrimmage either with what appeared to be a leg injury ... Ottawa coach Paul MacLean arrived in time for the scrimmage after spending part of last week back home in Antigonish, N.S. He was with assistants Dave Cameron and Mark Reeds.