Senators opt to keep Mika Zibanejad in AHL

Mika Zibanejad will stay in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators for the whole season. (Tony...

Mika Zibanejad will stay in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators for the whole season. (Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:02 AM ET

OTTAWA - The much-debated question of the day concerned Senators prospect Mika Zibanejad, his development and the world junior hockey championship:

Would it be best for the 19-year-old forward to represent his native Sweden again, or to remain in Binghamton and continue to learn the North American pro game?

Good arguments both ways, of course. Zibanejad scored the gold-medal-winning goal in the WJCs last Jan. 5, and playing in the high-level tournament again, this time in Russia, sure wouldnt hurt him.

On the other hand, Zibanejad is slowly progressing under B-Sens coach Luke Richardson, and at this rate he could challenge for a job in the NHL when the lockout ends. His chances, quite likely, would be better had he spent last season on this side of the ocean, in major junior hockey, too.

On Thursday, Ottawa decided Zibanejad isnt going anywhere.

Our opinion is that the best way to continue his progress towards becoming an impact player with the Senators is to spend the full season here, GM Bryan Murray said in a statement.

What would Zibanejad have done if he was in Murrays chair?

Youre putting me in a really tough spot right now, Zibanejad said with a laugh from Binghamton. I guess Im happy I dont have to make that decision.

I dont know what I would do. Im fully trusting (in the Senators) right now and Im just respecting their decision. I know where Im going to be at Christmas. It feels good.

The Senators did ask Zibanejad for his input. And after hearing what they wanted to hear, they made the call they did.

Its always a big thing, Zibanejad said of the tournament. Especially because the world juniors are getting bigger every year back home. It was always a goal and a dream for me to play world juniors, ever since my brother (Monir Kalgoum) played there (almost a decade ago).

At the same time, I have a contract with Ottawa and I pay close attention to what they have to say and I agree. I think its good for me to stay here and get a full season in and not have to travel all the way to Russia and back just for two weeks or three weeks.

I had a really good experience at the world juniors last year. You want to make both (sides) happy, but thats not possible. Right now, Im just going after what Ottawa wants me to do.

In 16 games for Binghamton, Zibanejad has one goal and six assists. The Senators like the direction his game is headed. So does he.

Absolutely, I try to get just a little bit better every day and get used to everything around me, said Zibanejad. All the travel and the games, the three games in three days and everything, it takes time getting used to and I feel like Im getting there. I think its been really good so far and I enjoy playing here.

I knew this was one option, that Ottawa wouldnt let me go, he added. I always had that in the back of my mind. It doesnt come as a shock. Now I get a good opportunity to focus on the team over here, making sure were winning games. Im trying to help as much as I can.

I guess now that its kind of clear whats going to happen, its easier for me to focus, too.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @SunDoniB


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