First Round Targets: Mika Zibanejad



There’s a bit of a Nino Niederreiter feeling to Mika Zibanejad heading into this year’s draft (imagine Don Cherry trying to read that sentence). For those unfamiliar, Neiderreiter rocketed up the charts last year thanks to a strong season with the Portland Winterhawks and an outstanding showing at the World Junior Championships. Although he ended up ranked somewhere of the middle of the first round by most consensus agencies heading into the draft weekend last June, he ended up going fifth overall to the New York Islanders.

Part of the reason for Niederreiter’s meteoric rise up the ranks wasn’t just some nice counting numbers, but his high-impact style of play: the big 6’2" and 205 pound winger was noticable on just about every shift whenever I watched him – be it because of his skating, his hitting or his willingness to mix it up.

Probably the same can be said for Zibanejad. Although he appeared in just 26 games for Djurgardens of the SEL (scoring just five goals and nine points), the 6’0, 190 pound center is appearing in the top-10 of most mock drafts these because of he plays the game the "right way" by many accounts. Corey Pronman ranked Zibanejad 7th overall amongst all draft eligibles recently, adding:


Ranking Explanation: Zibanejad rose to this point on my list thanks to a skill set that is above-average in just about every regard, and intangibles that are just off the chart. In comparing him to Beaulieu it wasn’t really that close. Zibanejad is significantly better in the possession game, and the only area where Beaulieu exceeded him was in skating by a full grade, but that wasn’t enough to top everything Zibanejad brought to the table. This was one of my easier rankings to do. Zibanejad arguably in pure talent could go toe-to-toe with Larsson and Murphy and get to fifth overall but as said before the market values play a part with this ranking more than talent.


Despite high praise, the numbers don’t overly flatter Zibanejad. Of course, kids playing in high-end pro leagues don’t tend to get the most ice time (particularly in scoring situations) which tends to suppress their output. Peter Forsberg, for example, played in just 23 games and scored 17 points for Modo during his draft year as a 17-year old. So even though Zibanejad has probably the worst counting numbers of those candidates we’ll consider, he’s universally ranked pretty high by all the consensus outfits: NHL CS had him second amongst EU skaters behind Adam Larsson (he was third behind Armia mid-way thruogh the year) and like Pronman, ISS ranked Zibanejad 7th overall (he wasn’t even top-15 in december). Red Line Report also had Zibanejad in their top-10, the only guy in our candidates list to make that claim.

As such, there’s almost no chance Zibanejad will be available come the Flames turn next Friday. If he experiences a Cam Fowler like fall for whatever reason, though, I fully expect the Flames to call his name at the podium.

  • Why are they comparing him to Dmen when he is a forward?

    He’s a good kid and would love for him to fall to 13, but that is no where near happening, again, he’d had to fall past the dreaded trap of Minn/Avs/Carolina, who I think will snap up a bunch of guys that these posts have started looking at.

      • Robert Cleave

        In your grey box thing you quoted there, they are comparring him to Beaulieu, Murphy and Larsson all Dmen, why would they do that? Wouldn’t you put out other forward comparables, teams that are gonna draft a forward are not gonna compare forwards against the Dmen availble and teams drafting Dmen are not gonna compare Dmen to the forwards available, only teams to do that are going strictly for BPA.

          • Wouldn’t it make a TON more sense to compare him to Couturier, Landeskog, Huberdeau, Strome, Bartschi and Armia though?

            Using CSS final rankings, why would you compare him to the #1 European defensive prospect(though they are the 1/2 European prospects so it makes some sense), but then also compare him to the 5th and 9th ranked NA D prospects? Between 5th and 9th are 3 forwards that would make a TON more sense to make compareables. When I’m cheering for a guy for the flames to take, I want to know how he stacks up with the other forwards.

            I get why he’s explaining why Mika is between those defenders on his list, but it would make a ton more sense to say why he’s above this certain forward and below another.

  • The quote Kent cited was out of my individual ranking explanations. In each of my top 20, I explained why each player was above the player below him. I had Zibanejad 7 and Beaulieu 8.

  • Emir

    Kent I’m loving the draft coverage and thanks for doing it.

    seems like a draft where 13th is going to be a decent spot to actually get something good since its a real logjam. I think the flames can walk our of this with a good prospect. And possibly even an NHL ready prospect.

      • icedawg_42

        I think regardless of who we pick we should do something this organization has never done, let the kid play his first 11 or 12 games in the NHL without having his first year contract kicking in. Just to see what the kid has and give him a taste of the NHL and you never know what happens, you may get a Skinner or J. Stall.

        • icedawg_42

          That would be an EXCELLENT way to cut ties with the Darryl Sutter era, and announce to the next Tim Erixon that the young prospects can actually expect to get a chance to play in Calgary. Here Here!!!

          • Vintage Flame

            Exactly show a little light to our first rounders and give them an honest chance, and it benefits them to, gives them a goal and shows them the real speed of the NHL and hopefully lets them set bench marks where they need to get to, so even if they get set back down at the 11/12 game mark they know what they need to work on.

            The only thing is, if you are giving the guy a Legit chance, make it a legit chance and not some 4th line grinder work, let him play his 11/12 games on the 1st/2nd or 3rd line at worst. I think for all our prospects it shows we are gonna let them play, and maybe makes them more motivated. I really don’t get why EVERY NHL team doesn’t do this with their first round picks at the least if you get a free year slider if you don’t play the 12 games or so.

  • Vintage Flame

    I think I like the scouting report on McNeil more than Zibanejad. Sounds more physically able, with the offensive upside but still more of a two way player. Zibanejad was noted for at times being too cute with the puck, that quality might be exaggerated if he is trying to make an impression on the club and fellow players.

    • Emir

      I agree with you. It totally depends on how the Flames ranking of players sets up when it is their turn to pick. If you can still get the guy you want, trade down and get another pick. Why wouldn’t you do that.
      This business of taking the best player available is nonsense in many ways because it is impossible to tell who is going to be the best pro among players ranked within a few spots of each other once you get beyond the top 5 or 10 like you said. It becomes preference of individual scouting staffs.
      I am with you in not ruling out trading down.
      Although Erixson didn’t sign with us Daryl traded down , got him and added another 2nd or 3rd round pick that year.