Top 25 Under 25 no. 2: Mika Zibanejad
Oh the wonderful things Zibanejad can do. He can score 16 goals, and make our list at #2
It was quite the season for Mika Zibanejad. It started with the surprise that he wasn't making the team out of camp, which definitely set the tone for the season on Twitter and message boards everywhere.
I'm sure the debate on if the short stint in Bingo was the kick he needed or an ill-advised delay in his development still rages on uninterrupted somewhere in the dark depths of the Internet, just waiting to break free and destroy us all.
It was a short stay, however, lasting just 6 games with the BSens.
Upon his return, it sure didn't take long for Zibanejad to have an impact. He put up the primary assist on just his second shift back, and went on to get three goals and that assist in his first five games.
He would go on to rack up 16 goals and 17 assists in the season.
It wasn't all sunshine and goals, though. Mika saw limited ice time for much of the season, and had some dry spells through the winter months (but not from lack of effort). He struggled somewhat in the faceoff circle, with only Da Costa having a lower FO% than Zibanejad out of the listed Cs on the team. He also took significantly fewer faceoffs than any of Spezza, Turris or Smith, indicating a reluctance on the part of Paulrus to have him take the draw. That is one thing he absolutely needs to improve on.
He also got to play a lot of lineup roulette, with the only player on for more than half of Zibanejad's ice time at 5 on 5 being Craig Anderson. The most common skater he says paired with was Michalek, a little under 47% of the time. His next most common line mate on forward that is still with the team was Candra., at just 16% of the time. Here's hoping for more consistent lines this season.
Making the team out of camp this year shouldn't be an issue. I think most people had him pencilled in as the defacto 2C after the Spezza trade, but the addition of Legwand means he's likely to share that duty along with the 3C spot for much of the season.
We'll see how long that lasts, though. Just like his demotion to start last season, it might not be for long.