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Tracking the Storm

Draft Profile: Mika Zibanejad

Friday, 06.24.2011 / 7:00 AM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Draft Profile: Mika Zibanejad
On each weekday between now and the first round of the NHL Entry Draft on June 24, we'll be profiling one of 11 players who could be chosen with the 12th overall pick by Carolina. Today's subject is Niagara IceDogs center Ryan Strome. Previously: Sven Bartschi | Nathan Beaulieu | Jonas Brodin | Sean Couturier | Oscar Klefbom | Ryan Murphy | Jamieson Oleksiak | Mark Scheifele | Duncan Siemens | Ryan Strome | Also see: Hurricanes Draft History.
His background might be tough to figure out, but his status as a top prospect is not.

Given Mika Zibanejad’s combination of Finnish and Iranian names and heritage (he has one parent from each country), one probably wouldn’t guess that he’s actually Swedish. However, that’s where he was born, raised and most recently played, having suited up for Djurgarden of his country’s elite league last season.

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As is the case with the earlier-profiled Jonas Brodin and a host of other draft-eligible players on good teams in the top European leagues, Zibanejad’s point totals (9 points in 26 games) are underwhelming due to limited ice time. In his case, scouts are more impressed by how he handled himself as a well-developed, 6-foot-2, 191-pound power forward playing against experienced older players.

“For a high-skill player who plays on the perimeter to be able to play in an elite league is one thing, but it’s rare for a power-forward type to be able to do that at a young age,” said Jason Karmanos, vice president and assistant general manager of the Hurricanes. “To be able to play that style of game against players that are on average 10 years older than him says a lot about his hockey sense, confidence and the overall skill level he brings to the table.

“Strength-wise you don’t even notice that he was a 17-year-old, and that’s impressive.”

Scouts consider Zibanejad, the NHL Central Scouting Service’s No. 2 ranked European skater, as a two-position player who could end up at either center or the wing. If used in the latter, he could resemble a young Erik Cole, who shares many of the same descriptions, including stature.

“The best thing about him is that he skates so well and is a very strong man,” said Tony MacDonald, the Hurricanes’ director of amateur scouting. “He’s got strength, speed and takes the puck to the net. He is not a fun guy to play against.”

Although his point totals in international play and for Djurgarden’s junior team have shown that he can score against players closer to his own age, Zibanejad didn’t get the chance to fully showcase his skills at the World Under-18 Championship in April as he played through an injury. However, he still netted 8 points (4g, 4a) in eight games to tie for his team’s scoring lead.

“He was still one of the best forwards on the Swedish team,” said MacDonald.

Based on what he was able to do in his domestic league, those considering Zibanejad as a draft pick are hopeful that he could be ready to join their organization sooner rather than later. In addition being more physically developed than most in his draft class, his strong command of the English language and universal smarts make him one of the most NHL-ready players available this season.

“He plays an NHL-style game right now,” said MacDonald. “He’s probably capable of jumping right in because he’s played with men. He’s probably prepared to play now both mentally and physically.”

“He’s just a good, honest, hard-working player who has skill, speed and power to his game,” said Karmanos. “He’s the type of player that you need no matter what decade you’re playing in.”


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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 63 41 17 5 171 139 87
2 NYR 62 39 17 6 196 153 84
3 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 62 24 31 7 144 167 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 62 12 28 -18 40
E. Staal 57 18 20 -12 38
E. Lindholm 61 11 16 -18 27
J. Skinner 57 16 10 -17 26
N. Gerbe 58 7 16 -10 23
R. Nash 59 7 15 -10 22
V. Rask 60 8 12 -16 20
J. McClement 62 6 13 3 19
J. Staal 26 4 12 -4 16
A. Nestrasil 34 4 11 4 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 17 20 4 .911 2.43
A. Khudobin 7 11 3 .905 2.61