At the tender age of 20 years five months Ottawa Senators centre Mika Zibanejad is offering a whole lot of perspective when he looks back at the topsy-turvy ride of his past two seasons. Now that he’s relatively secure in having landed a full-time spot with the Senators — “I’m not taking anything for granted but it should be a good year” he says — Zibanejad claims everything that has happened has been positive for his development. “The past years have been good for me” he said this week following a workout at the Canadian Tire Centre. “Having been thrown into different circumstances. I came into this camp more prepared mentally. If you have a bad day you just put it aside and keep going. I’m starting to grow up I guess.” The way the picture lays out Zibanejad is in position to line up as the Senators third-line centre behind Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris. It’s possible Zack Smith and Chris Neil could see time as his wingers although nothing is even close to being decided so early in training camp. It’s a spot even the most optimistic within the Senators organization might not have imagined a year ago at this time considering what’s happened since Zibanejad was drafted sixth overall in 2011. After a strong training camp with the Senators that fall Zibanejad’s game faded fast once the games started counting in the regular season. He registered only one assist in nine National Hockey League games and he was at times lost in the transitions between offence and defence. After he was sent back to Djurgardens of the Swedish league Zibanejad’s development was slowed by reduced ice time on a struggling team that was eventually demoted to the second division. While that disappointment was offset by the fact Zibanejad scored the overtime winning goal for Sweden in the world junior championship final Zibanejad and the Senators were frustrated at how he was used by his club team. Upon being assigned to Binghamton of the American Hockey League during the NHL lockout a year ago Zibanejad’s progress suffered further because he was out of shape and unfocused. On top of that he had through a series of injuries that kept him out of the lineup. When NHL training camps opened following the lockout he didn’t receive an invitation from the Senators. Only after Spezza joined the long list of injured Senators having back surgery in late January was Zibanejad finally recalled from Binghamton. He made an immediate impact but when his game slipped again coach Paul MacLean made him a healthy scratch — “a wake up call” according to Zibanejad.
Z-Bad says times now Z-Good
Ottawa Citizen | Sep 18