That is Mika Zibanejad slipping an impending bone-crunching hit from the man I believe the Oilers should draft first overall, Adam Larsson. Why am I showing my number one pick missing badly on a hit and giving up a breakaway? Because I believe the Oilers should use their other first round pick, the pick obtained from the Los Angeles Kings, to draft Zibanejad.
#33 / Center / Djurgårdens IF
April 18, 1993
|2010 - Djurgården J-20 Superelit
|2010 - Djurgården IF
Zibanejad was the highest-scoring draft-age player in the U-20 league in Sweden before his promotion to the big club, where he posted 9 points in 26 games. For a comparison, fellow Swede Victor Rask totaled 11 points in 37 games in Sweden's second division. Zibanejad's NHL Equivalency normalized for 82 games of 12G 10A 22P compares very favorably to recent Swedish forwards recently taken in the first round:
I'll let Kirk Luedeke describe Zibanejad:
He's a smart. energetic, passionate player who takes those intangibles and brews a nice concoction with his impressive physical and skills package. Versatility is also a bonus for Zibanejad who can play center or either wing as right-shooting player. He's a long strider who gets up and down the surface quickly and at 6-2, 192 pounds has plenty of room to fill out and get stronger. Zibanejad has soft hands and the vision/instincts to make plays all over the ice. He's also got a hard, heavy shot that he uses to great effect, sometimes seeing time at the point on the power play. We've seen him move fluidly and effortlessly from the point to the middle of the slot and uncork some nice drives, so he's a dangerous offensive player that defenses must account for. He's a banger and relishes physical contact.
Various draft sources rank him as a mid-to-late first rounder, with Craig Button slotting him in at 13 and The Scouting Report at 25.
|The Scouting Report
*Kirk Luedeke ranks Zibanejad as the #2 European skater available in the draft, while Central Scouting ranks Zibanejad as the third-best European skater behind Larsson and Joel Armia.
The Scouting Report calls him a "...big center who plays both ends of the ice and has great leadership abilities," while ISS says "...he has above average offensive intelligence and good instincts around the net. He has a deceptively hard and accurate shot with a good release and is a dangerous shooter off the rush from both the middle and the outside lanes."
"He plays the game of a modern power forward and skates very well. Goes into heavy traffic without thinking twice. Will instigate physical play. Takes his defensive responsibilities seriously. A terrific faceoff man."
Our own Johan Barrender interviewed Zibanejad in November when he was still playing on the on the Djurgårdens U-20 team. Zibanejad was frank in assessing his game:
C & B: I've been impressed by the fact that you are a true two-way center. Is the defensive part of your game something you've worked on from an early age?
Zibanejad: Kind of. I know how important the defensive aspects of the game are, and it's a part of my game that I focus on and work on. I also watch a lot of hockey and see that as practice as well.
C & B: What do you see as your biggest strengths?
Zibanejad: I think that I'm a big and strong two-way center with a good shot and decent speed. I'm also a leader on the ice, and think it's important to lead by example. I'm extremely competitive whether it's face-offs or working along the boards. I always want to win, no matter what.
C & B: What do you need to work on?
Zibanejad: My skating. I need to become more explosive and work on my acceleration. There are of course a lot of areas to work on, but that's my main focus at the moment.
Mika Zibanejad is a big, strong center who enjoys playing physical hockey and relishes a two-way game. He wins faceoffs, wins battles on the boards and has high-level skills. And he's right-handed. He's an excellent player that should excel in the North American game. He's also Swedish by nationality, but of Finnish-Iranian descent, an excellently muddled background perfectly suited to center a line composed of a Finn and a Swedish-Finn. His numbers best other recent Swedish first-round selections. Put bluntly, Zibanejad's game is everything the Oilers have lacked in a young center since...Jason Arnott was traded.
The problem, of course, is getting into a draft position to select Zibanejad. With a draft value of somewhere between 13 and 25, the Oilers may have to move up to select Zibanejad. While the injury to Anze Kopitar certainly increases the probability of the Kings' pick being in the high teens or low twenties rather than in the mid-to-high twenties, the Kings could rally in Kopitar's absence and push that pick out of range. So who do the Oilers have in the cupboard to package with that first round pick that could help then move up 5-10 spots? One possibility is Andrew Cogliano. Cogliano has survived three trade attempts and seems to have a target on his back when it comes to trade rumors. Could Steve Tambellini convince a team like the Blue Jackets, Hurricanes or the Wild that Cogliano and the other first round pick are enough?
Update: Longtime reader Ehuisman posted a link to the following video, showing Zibanejad exploding into Atlanta Thashers prospect Carl Klingberg: