When all was said and done, the Senators got their man, and it was Mika Zibanejad.
Many Sens fans hoped the team would be able to trade up, but when that didn't happen and Sean Couturier fell, many were hoping he would be selected. Bryan Murray and his staff clearly liked the young Swede more. Zibanejad does not have the height of Couturier, but is not small by any means -- his height of 6'2" and weight of 195lbs are comparable to Gabriel Landeskog, who was selected second overall.
Zibanejad will fill a need for the Senators as he is a big, physical center. His experience in the SEL as a teenager cannot be discounted--that is a man's league, and the fact that he's known for his physical play there is extremely encouraging. Those expecting him to contribute next year will be disappointed, as he projects to spend one more year in the SEL, That should not be considered a negative--it worked well for David Rundblad.
Those of us who are disappointed Couturier wasn't the pick need to keep things in perspective. The team's scouts have done their homework on Swedish players--consider recent the recent success with Karlsson and the outstanding seasons of Rundblad and AHL Playoff MVP Robin Lehner. There's ample reason to believe Zibanejad will join that crew.
The bottom line here is that Ottawa just drafted a player whose most common comparison is Ryan Kesler. That's not a choice to complain about.
Here's what scouts have to say about the newest Senator:
Scott Campbell of The Scouting Report:
Overall, Zibanejad is about as close to a total package as you’re going to get with forwards in this draft. As a center, he plays an important position and does it very well. He’s a big kid with a physical and nasty edge to his game, pretty good offensive upside, and a strong two-way game. He may never be a big-time scorer at the NHL level, but he projects to at least be a very valuable second-line type player who could easily anchor a first line if he hits his potential.
Ross MacLean of International Scouting Services:
A talented and technical player, Zibanejad is a big, strong, hard worker who dictates the pace of every shift he plays. He has a rocket shot with a tremendous release and can score from a variety of areas in the offensive zone. His intensity creates a lot of turnovers and it's obvious opposing defenders are aware of his presence on the ice.
Goran Stubb of NHL Central Scouting:
Mika's a real power forward but also has soft hands, good vision and fine skating skills. He has tremendous balance and is hard to knock off the puck. He's very strong in the battles along the boards, finishes checks with authority and has a heavy shot that he gets off quickly. Mika's a competitive player who is willing to pay the price to score a goal. He does have a very good understanding of his defensive duties.
Brian Huddle of the The Hockey Writers:
Centers who can play on a team’s top two lines come at a premium in today’s NHL. Whether overpaying in free agency or via trade, these types of pivots just don’t come cheap. Most General Managers have come to this conclusion and have targeted them heavily come Draft Day.
With that in mind, Swedish born Mike Zibanajed comes highly touted. A center with the ability to shift to the wing, Zibanajed brings size, skill and toughness to the table, and the projection as a future top six centerman. It’s no wonder his name has darted to the tops of many draft lists, with his Youtube videos becoming a top search amongst draft eligible players
Finally, you can read an interview by The Copper & Blue with Zibanajed here.
This is a pick Sens fans will like more and more as they have more chances to see him play.