Senators: Zibanejad staying in North America

Friday, 08.10.2012 / 9:54 AM | Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Mika Zibanejad got a short taste of hockey and life in North America last season, after the Ottawa Senators picked him No. 6 at the 2011 NHL Draft.

This season, he'll be on this side of the Atlantic far longer.

Ottawa Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray told NHL.com that Zibanejad will spend the 2012-13 season in North America, either in the NHL with the Senators or with the club's American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Senators.

"He's staying no matter what," Murray said. "Whether its Ottawa or Binghamton, we're not sending him back. So he's here."

Zibanejad, currently here with Team Sweden for the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp, started last season in Ottawa, but was returned to his Swedish team, Djurgardens, in late October.

"We wanted to keep him, that was the intent," Murray said. "Just the longer it went, you could see with him the loss of confidence. The NHL is a tough league for anybody, especially an 18-year-old kid coming from Europe for the first time. I thought he played pretty well. He had some good games. I think it was the right thing to do to send him back. Hopefully that comes through in the next couple years."

Zibanejad, who scored the overtime goal in the championship game at the 2012 World Junior Championship, remains eligible for the 2013 tournament. Murray said there's a chance the Senators could let Zibanejad play in the tournament. It's a similar situation they faced last year with goalie Robin Lehner. The Senators opted to keep Lehner in Binghamton rather than release him for Team Sweden.

"For the World Juniors, obviously then that's not a decision we have to make today," Murray said. "He's obviously on their team. … We'll just have to do what we think is right for him. Is he playing 18 minutes a night in Ottawa? Is he playing 23 minutes a night in Binghamton? Who knows? Potentially he will be back playing in this tournament, but if I had to put odds on it I wouldn't even know where to place the odds."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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