One way or another, Zibanejad staying in North America

Sometimes we forget just how young top NHL prospects really are. There’s a very real possibility that the scoring hero of the last world junior hockey championships — namely, Senators first round pick Mika Zibanejad — could once again be back representing Sweden come Christmas time.

One way or another, Zibanejad staying in North America

Sometimes we forget just how young top NHL prospects really are.

There’s a very real possibility that the scoring hero of the last world junior hockey championships – namely, former Senators first round pick Mika Zibanejad – could once again be back representing Sweden come Christmas time.

For now, though, Zibanejad is doing his best to focus only on the here and now, trying to put blinders on to the likelihood of an NHL lockout.

Zibanejad, 19, does know he’ll start the 2012-13 season in either Ottawa or with the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton. If a lockout happens, he’ll immediately be assigned to Binghamton.

On Wednesday, though, he insisted he didn’t want to look ahead.

“I don’t know what to feel, really, it’s a new situation for me,” he said following an informal skate with Senators teammates and Ottawa-based pros at the Bell Sensplex. “I’m just kind of going with it right now, working out and be prepared for anything that could happen.”

The 2011-12 season was full of peaks and valleys for Zibanejad, selected sixth overall by the Senators in the June, 2011 draft. Following an outstanding training camp with the Senators, he faded once the regular season began, registering one assist in nine games, and was re-assigned to his Swedish club, Djurgardens. Djurgardens struggled and Zibanejad lost playing time to more veteran players as the season wore on.

Zibanejad, however, played for Sweden at the world juniors in Edmonton and Calgary and scored the overtime game winning goal in the 1-0 gold medal victory over Russia.

Once back home in Sweden, however, Djurgardens continued to struggle and was ultimately relegated to the second division. Zibanejad ended up with five goals and eight assists in 26 games. The Senators’ plans to have him play with Binghamton, and possibly join the Senators for the playoffs, ended when he suffered a concussion during practice.

The Senators were disappointed with Zibanejad’s limited ice time in Sweden. The only possibility that Zibanejad will be playing overseas is at the world junior championships in Russia.

“I know I’m staying here (in North America) right now,” said Zibanejad. “I don’t have to go back home. It helps out a little bit. The focus is not on two places right now.”

The Senators prospect, whose name figured prominently in off-season trade rumours involving both Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan, also recognizes that the level of play in the AHL is probably better than in Sweden’s second division.

“Everyone down there is trying to earn a spot in The Show,” he said. “I think it’s a good league to develop and a chance to get better. I’m going to stay here and give myself a chance to make it.”

Zibanejad, who played for Sweden’s junior team in summer exhibition games, says his concussion problems are behind him.

“I feel good. It’s nothing, really. There’s no issue anymore.”

ROUGH DAY FOR BLUNDEN

Montreal Canadiens defenceman and Gloucester product Mike Blunden’s day at the rink Wednesday was quick – and bloody. Blunden was behind the net when a shot from Chris Neil hit him on the right eyebrow. Blunden immediately went down and a fountain of blood dripped to the ice before his fellow players rushed to the ice to stop the bleeding. Blunden walked out of the Sensplex, but was taken for stitches.

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

More Senators news

Tags: , ,

What do you think? Leave a comment