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Mika Zibanejad eying next level of NHL career

Center looking to 'break out' with Rangers following trade from Senators

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- Center Mika Zibanejad never thought he'd be traded by the Ottawa Senators. He was so confident, he recently had a house built near Canada's capital city.

But Zibanejad won't get to live there for long.

Zibanejad, who was Ottawa's first-round pick (No. 6) at the 2011 NHL Draft, was traded to the New York Rangers on Monday for center Derick Brassard and a second-round pick in the 2018 draft. The Senators also received a seventh-round pick in 2018.

"It's not convenient, I'll tell you that much," Zibanejad said Tuesday. "It is what it is. I'm happy with the way things have been going and whatever, and obviously would like to stay here for a longer time, but things like this happen. I'm not too worried about it. I know we'll all figure it out and I'll be fine. I'm just looking forward to the move to New York now."

Zibanejad, 23, ranked fifth on the Senators in scoring last season with 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) in 81 games. He admitted he was surprised when he got the call from Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion on Monday that he had been traded to New York, but his emotions quickly shifted toward excitement. The goal in training camp will be to prove that Rangers GM Jeff Gorton was right when he said Monday that Zibanejad is just scratching the surface as he enters the prime of his career. Zibanejad is almost six years younger than Brassard.

"I feel like the whole process of my career is going towards the right way," Zibanejad said. "I feel like I haven't really got the break yet and I feel like there's a lot more to give. I'm quite excited to be able to get this chance with the Rangers and I feel like I'm at that moment in my career to be able to do that and hopefully break out here."

Video: Breaking down the Rangers trade with the Senators

He'll get a chance to do that in New York, where he likely will center one of the top two lines. Zibanejad's production has improved in each of the past two seasons, and he had 64 goals and 87 assists in 281 NHL games with Ottawa.

"I feel like I can skate very good for a bigger guy," Zibanejad (6-foot-2, 222 pounds) said. "I feel like my shot is getting improved every year and my hockey sense is there. I feel like I'm a pretty all-around solid and good player. As a young player, you can always improve in every different aspect of your game.

"Obviously, keep working on faceoffs and keep working on the little details that will help me and the team to be successful. I feel like I'm solid all-around, but I'm not happy just yet with what I've accomplished and where I am. I'm just looking forward to every year that goes by to get a little bit better and make a bigger impact every year as well."

There will be some pressure on Zibanejad to continue his steady improvement, this time for a Rangers team that is trying to maintain its status of being a Stanley Cup contender with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who will turn 35 before the start of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Zibanejad said he's confident with the roster as currently constructed.

"It's an Original Six team," Zibanejad said. "The status of the team is very high anywhere you go. I think as far as the roster goes, it looks really, really promising and really interesting. It's a team that goes for the Cup every year and is a big contender for it. I'm really happy to be a part of this and [I'm] hoping I can add more to that as well.

"Some of the guys reached out [Monday] after the trade and welcomed me, just texting me a little bit and had some conversations with them. I'm happy. I'm really excited to get this thing started."

One such player was Senators captain Erik Karlsson.

Tweet from @ErikKarlsson65: It's sad seeing good friends leave but I wish him all the best and I know he's gonna do great things in NYC @MikaZibanejad all the best

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