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Zibanejad tries to make his mark with Sens

by Erin Nicks /
OSHAWA, Ont. -- Ottawa Senators prospect Mika Zibanejad, the sixth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, has an eclectic background, with Iranian, Finnish and Swedish bloodlines. But as those attending this weekend's Oshawa Rookie Tournament soon discovered the 18-year-old's game also has an international flair.

"I try to mix my European style and my North American style," Zibanejad said. "I'm not afraid to play a physical game, but I'm not hiding my skills, either. I try to use them as much as possible. I like it out here (in Canada). It's tough. The decisions you have to make come in a split-second, so I'm enjoying it here at the tournament."

Ottawa Senators prospect Mika Zibanejad. (Getty Images)
The young center's experience largely has come on the international-sized ice surface, but Zibanejad has not had any trouble making the adjustment to the smaller, North American-sized rink. 

"I've played on (North American-sized ice) once in one tournament, in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Timmins, Ont., and a couple of games in Lake Placid before I came to Ottawa," Zibanejad said. "It's fun and there's always something happening, so I like it."

Ottawa prospects coach Kurt Kleinendorst has enjoyed watching his play, as well.
"He's just a big, strong young man," Kleinendorst said. "I guess that's the best way to put it. I love that goal that he scored (Sunday). It ended up being the game-winner, where he took a pass and he turned around and got it on net right away, then he follows it up and gets his own rebound.

"He's the kind of kid from what I can tell -- and I've only had him for a few days -- there aren't many shortcuts in his game. He's an honest player. He doesn't cheat. He plays the game the right way and that's probably why he is where he is right now."

In addition to being an international player, Zibanejad also likes to study different elements of NHL stars from other countries, as he tries to gain his own experience through events like this rookie tournament and eventually Ottawa training camp. Pegged as a power forward with soft hands and a willingness to finish checks, the kinds of players he particularly admires doesn't come as a surprise.
"I try to watch guys like Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney CrosbyPatrick Kane, too," Zibanejad said. "I just try to take parts of their game and add it to mine. I want to learn as much as I can."

Despite his world view, Zibanejad already knows playing for Ottawa often means focusing on one other city -- Toronto, home to the rival Maple Leafs.

"I'm looking forward to coming to Ottawa and helping out in the Battle of Ontario," Zibanejad said. "This weekend was my first chance to play in one and it's been really fun."
With his first rivalry game and rookie tournament under his belt, Zibanejad is hoping his next stop is Canada's capital city.
"I think I got better as the weekend went on," Zibanejad said. "Now I'm really looking forward to training camp and trying to make the team."
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