Silver Nuggets: Should Mika Zibanejad be playing in IIHF Under 20 Championships?

Should Mika Zibanejad be putting on the famous Tre Kronor? (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

As many in Canada begin to obsess over a hockey tournament for kids aged 19 and under, I can't help but think that Mika Zibanejad would be better served staying in the Elitserien. The tournament runs from 26 December to 5 January in Alberta. Djurgarden's next seven games are on the 22nd, 26th, 28th, 30th, 5th, 7th and 10th. Should Sweden make the gold medal (or bronze medal) game, Zibanejad will likely miss the first six games. Depending on the travel and fatigue, he might miss a seventh game on the 10th as well.

When Zibanejad went back to Sweden, he struggled to get on the score sheet for the first few weeks before finally getting into a groove. In his first six games in the Elitserien this season, he had one point in six games, but he had five points in the last seven. Travelling back to Canada and playing with a whole new set of teammates and then coming back again to Sweden could slow his development down. In addition, wouldn't playing in the Elitserien against grown men be better for his development as an NHL player next year than playing against kids?

This situation is a little similar to that of Robin Lehner last year. He wasn't getting a lot of games, and then he left the AHL to play for Sweden and returned to spend the majority of the season as a backup. Were it not for Barry Brust struggling in the playoffs, it really could have been a wasted year of development for Lehner last season. It was a stop and start season for Lehner and it could be similar for Zibanejad.

Zibanejad won't be the only Senator at the tournament. Mark Stone will play for Canada and Shane Prince might play for the Americans, but both are currently only playing against junior players right now. Fredrik Claesson is also leaving Djurgarden, but at least he has played there the whole season and he is a few years from the NHL anyway.

The Under 20 World Championships is a good tournament though I believe it is hyped far too much and overrated. The competition has to be inferior to that of the Elitserien. This is not to say that Zibanejad's season will be ruined, but doesn't it make more sense for him to be playing for Djurgarden?

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