Don’t let his baby face and long, side-swept hair fool you. Mika Zibanejad, who just turned 18 years old in April, is a dynamic power forward and one of Europe’s most highly-touted prospects eligible in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Currently ranked No. 2 among European skaters (behind Adam Larsson), Zibanejad had been flying under the radar in North America throughout his junior hockey career despite putting up solid numbers with his Djurgarden junior hockey club. But his performance on the international stage during the 2010 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge garnered serious attention from scouts. The then-17-year-old led Team Sweden with five goals and nine points in just six games, impressive for a player who had to adjust to the smaller North American-style ice surface.
|Mika Zibanejad, 18, played in 26 games with Djurgarden in the Swedish Elite League - the highest level of hockey Sweden has to offer. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images) |
His strong play in the tournament carried over into the 2010-11 season, as Zibanejad tallied 12 goals and 21 points in his first 27 games with Djurgarden’s 20-year-old team as a 17-year-old. In December, Zibanejad found himself playing for the Djurgarden squad that competes in the highest league Sweden has to offer. It was a huge promotion for Mika, who found himself playing amongst men, some nearly twice his age.
Since his promotion, Zibanejad tallied five goals and nine points in 26 games with the big club. Not bad for a player who isn’t afraid to take a hit to make a play.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 191 pounds, Zibanejad has the foundation to build an NHL-caliber power forward upon. “He has tremendous balance and is hard to knock off the puck,” NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. But what really sets him apart from his peers is his ability to make plays with great on-ice vision and “soft hands” – a term used to describe a player who can cradle and control the puck with ease and make finesse passes a normal player can’t and/or won’t dare to attempt.
His willingness to body check is equally impressive, as Zibanejad has delivered several highlight-worthy hits during his first stint in the Swedish Elite League, including a hit that sent an opposing defenseman over the boards and into the bench.
Although Zibanejad is only 18 years old, he is beginning to draw comparison to current Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg. “[Henrik] is a great guy,” Zibanejad said to media members at the Scouting Combine. “He’s big in Sweden so it’s an honor to be compared to him.”
Below are some highlights of his 2010-11 season:
- In his first season playing in the Swedish Elite League, Zibanejad tallied 5-4=9 points in 26 games with Djurgarden.
- Earned 12-9=21 points in 27 games with Djurgarden’s junior team before getting the call up to the Swedish Elite League in December.
- Co-led Sweden’s Under-18 World Championship squad with 4-4=8 points and plus-8 rating in six games. Did you know?
- Zibanejad, whose mother is Finnish and father is Iranian, speaks three languages: Swedish, Finnish and English
- Considers his older brother, Monir Kalgoum, 27, his role model for teaching him how to win faceoffs, attack opposing defensemen, and helping him achieve his hockey goals.Up Next: Gabriel Landeskog
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