Swede Zibanejad a quick learner

Sweden forward Mika Zibanejad skates with the puck against Slovakia during a World Junior...

Sweden forward Mika Zibanejad skates with the puck against Slovakia during a World Junior Championship match in Calgary, Alta., Dec. 30, 2011. (JIM WELLS/QMI Agency)

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:14 PM ET

CALGARY - If he wasn't on the fast track to NHL stardom, Mika Zibanejad could probably find work at the United Nations as a translator.

"Maybe one day," the Swedish superstar said with a grin.

Zibanejad, a first-round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, speaks four languages -- and he's learning others.

"I speak Swedish, Finnish, English, Farsi, I understand Persian and hopefully I can soon go back to studying French.

"I think it's good for the future."

He comes by his multi-lingual talents honestly.

His dad's from Iran, his mom in Finnish and he grew up in Sweden.

He could make good use of his knowledge of the Finnish language in Tuesday's semifinal matchup, but Zibanejad isn't much of a trash-talker.

"I know they have a really good first line and two good goalies," Zibanejad said of the Finns.

"I don't know much about them, but we have to focus on our game."

The Finns earned a berth in Tuesday's semifinal (3 p.m., Saddledome) with an 8-5 quarterfinal victory Monday over Slovakia.

The Swedes, thanks to a miraculous come-from-behind New Year's Eve win over the Russians, were able to sit back with their feet up and scout the Finns.

"I think it's good to have a day off, and get in a practice like this," Zibanejad said after Monday's workout at COP.

"We were happy about (the Russia win) that night, and a little bit the next day. But today's a new day.

"We haven't won anything yet. Everything starts now so we have to be ready."

Zibanejad, who picks up languages faster than most people read a paperback, is clearly a quick learner.

And he made sure to pass on the lessons learned at last year's tournament to his teammates.

Sweden beat Canada in a shootout on New Year's, but then lost its first playoff game, in overtime to the Russians.

The team never came down from it's New Year's Eve high, Zibanejad said.

"I think that's what happened last year," he said. "We were so happy after the Canada game.

"I don't think we've played at the level we want to be at. We have to stay focused for 60 minutes."

Zibanejad nearly cracked the Senators lineup this fall.

After scoring three goals in six pre-season tilts, he earned a longer look and started the season in The Bigs.

He picked up an assist in his NHL debut but was unable to find the scoresheet in the next eight games and was sent back to Sweden.

"I took that as an experience and took it with me back home," Zibanejad said of his cup of coffee in the NHL.

"I've tried to improve and develop so next year, I can make the team.

"It was good that I got the nine games to get a feel for how hard everything is. That's going to help me in the future."

Getting cut by the Sens, who selected the skilled centre sixth overall at last summer's draft, was a bitter pill to swallow.

"That's the only reason I came over -- to stay and play in the NHL this year," Zibanejad said.

But I played for (Swedish club team) Djurgardens last year, so I know what they're going to give me and what I have there.

"I'll think about next year when this season is over."

The 6-foot, 176-pounder has three goals and six points in 13 games with Djurgardens this season.

He's got three goals and four points and leads Team Sweden with 26 shots on net through four games at the world juniors.

Zibanejad shrugged off the comotion caused earlier in the week by teammate Max Friberg's ride-the-stick shootout celebration.

"He's maybe not the most popular guy in Canada right now, but we don't care about that," he said.

"We're here to play hockey."

Zibanejad said he won't be borrowing the move.

"I have my celebration, so I'll stick with that."

Which is?

"You'll see."

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNScottFisher


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