The Ottawa Senators made a move most expected on Wednesday when they announced that top 2011 draft selection Mika Zibanejad will not remain with the team and instead will be returned to his Swedish team.
There was optimism before the season began that Zibanejad might just stick around. First of all, he has the size to play now. Secondly, he was coming off a strong preseason showing. Third, well, the Senators figured to have room for some growing players this season considering their long-shot status to make the playoffs.
“We think, for the long-term development of him, to give him the opportunity to become what we believe he has a chance to become," Sens GM Bryan Murray said, "and that is a quality NHL player, that this is the right step for him at this moment.
“I think the reason we’re probably sending him back is that we want him to have the puck, we want him to have a chance to score points, to be a legitimate top-six NHL player,” Murray explained. “I think at 18 years of age, he was playing the last little bit to survive and not make mistakes, rather than be a creative kind of kid that we think he’ll turn out to be.
Whatever the reasoning, it's a good move. Zibanejad one assist in his nine games and averaged 12:54 of ice time per game. Those aren't the types of numbers you look for from a top-six forward. The hope is more time spent in the Swedish Elite League, playing against adults, can help him grow and he can play more minutes there than in the NHL.
"It's hard, but I'll have this experience for next year," Zibanejad said. "It's sad, but on the other hand it's a good opportunity to improve my game."
Zibanejad will be eligible for the same nine-game tryout next season as he will still just be 19, but considering how some of the people in the organization struggled to make the call this time around, you'd have to think the second time will be the charm.
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