Top Senators prospect not going back to Sweden
BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency
|Mika Zibanejad will be in a battle for a job in Senators training camp next month. (Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency/Files)
OTTAWA - Even if Mika Zibanejad isn’t in the NHL next season, he won’t be going back to Sweden.
The Senators’ top prospect will either play in Ottawa or he’ll be sent to the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton if he doesn’t make the NHL after training camp in September.
Senators assistant GM Tim Murray just returned from watching Zibanejad, 19, at a national junior team evaluation camp in Lake Placid and left impressed.
Zibanejad will be in a battle for a job in camp next month if it opens on schedule. The possibility exists he could be on the wing on the club’s first or second line. The Senators will make room for him if he comes into camp and earns a spot.
“That’s the plan (to keep him here). The only chance he has of playing games if he doesn’t make the NHL is to be (in Binghamton),” Murray said Friday. “He’s not going to play any games if he’s over there (in Sweden). He knows that as well.
“He belongs to Djurgarden. They’re not playing in the Elite League (next season). They got demoted. They were a bad team last year. I just think that whether it’s Ottawa or Binghamton, they’re both better options for him.”
Zibanejad, a first-round pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft, was sent back to Sweden last season after suiting up for nine games. He did score the winning goal to secure a gold medal for the country in the world juniors, but it didn’t work out the way he wanted.
He was sent back to Djurgarden with a promise he’d get lots of playing time and that simply wasn’t the case. The Senators felt his development was hampered by the fact he wasn’t getting enough playing time.
“Nothing is ever a waste of time so it wasn’t a waste of time but it was close to that I guess,” said Murray. “They weren’t very good. I assume the management and coaching staff have to take some responsibility for that. The players suffer.
“Unless you’re there every day you don’t know, but I can say there were times they didn’t (put him in the role they promised). Consistently, they didn’t. There were probably times we didn’t see them play that they did. Overall, no, it wasn’t a great experience, that’s for sure.”
Murray said there is a shot for Zibanejad in Ottawa next season.
“There’s at least one spot in a Top-6 role and I think any one of the kids could come in and push for that. It’s going to be good competition,” said Murray. “He can play either wing. He did for Sweden. I don’t think it matters at all.
“You can see that he’s a top player. He looked good in spurts. When he gets the puck in the offensive zone and when he shoots the puck, he shoots it like nobody else. He’s got a 10-out-of-10 NHL shot, not (just) a top shot for his own age group. He shoots the puck like a man. That’s his biggest asset.”
Murray said he doesn’t envision much activity before camp.
“You’re never done. You are open to anything. We’re not pursuing anybody greatly right now,” said Murray. “(GM) Bryan (Murray) has talked to all the teams and kicked the tires, but we’re not having meetings and coming up with a game plan to get a specific player by tomorrow, no.”