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Fantasy Spin: Mika Zibanejad gets boost from trade

Forward should continue to improve with Rangers; Derick Brassard will help Senators power play

by Ben Zweiman @BZweimanNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators swapped centers Monday, with Mika Zibanejad going to New York in a trade for Derick Brassard.

With the Rangers, Zibanejad becomes a sleeper with upside and is worth selecting in the top 150 players in a fantasy draft.

Brassard's value doesn't move up or down significantly, but he should be drafted a bit higher than his projection after moving to Ottawa's young, talented roster which features defenseman Erik Karlsson and forwards Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Bobby Ryan.

Video: OTT@CGY: Zibanejad nets first career hat trick

Zibanejad, 23, set NHL career highs in goals (21), assists (30), points (51) and shots on goal (184) in 81 games with Ottawa last season. He has shown steady improvement over each of the past three seasons, with 33 points in 69 games in 2013-14, and 46 in 80 games in 2014-15.

A restricted free agent after this season, Zibanejad finished 167th in Yahoo's performance-based rankings last season. He was not in Pete Jensen's top 200 overall rankings for July prior to the trade.

Zibanejad will join the Rangers' top-six forward group and could replace Brassard, who centered Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello last season. Zibanejad, who was probably going to break out this season regardless of where he was playing, is also likely to replace Brassard on the Rangers' first power-play unit, which will help his production considering New York was ranked 12 spots higher than Ottawa in converting on the man-advantage last season.

Video: Breaking down the Rangers trade with the Senators

Brassard, 28, spent much of last season as the Rangers' top-line center on a line with Zuccarello and Nash. Brassard scored an NHL career-high 27 goals and had 58 points in 80 games, finishing 59th in Yahoo's rankings last season (he was No. 102 on Jensen's top 200).

The Senators will likely slot Brassard behind Turris as their second-line center. Brassard had success playing with an undersized wing (Zuccarello) the past two seasons with New York and could find similar chemistry playing with 5-foot-9 Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who had a breakout season with 43 points in 82 games. Brassard, Pageau and either Ryan, Stone or Hoffman would form a solid secondary scoring line for Ottawa.

Brassard is also familiar with Senators coach Guy Boucher, who coached him with Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2006-07. Brassard led New York in power-play goals (eight) and points (22) and will provide a boost to the Senators' 26th-ranked unit.

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