Defending Big D begins our annual series of looking at top draft prospects that could possibly have their name called by the Dallas Stars at the 2011 Entry Draft. Today one of the top ranked players coming out of Europe...
Team: Djurgarden / Swedish Elite League
Born: April 18, 1993
Weight: 191 pounds
NHL Central Scouting: 2nd among European skaters
International Scouting Services: 27th overall
The Hockey News: 11th overall
Why the Stars would take him:
Because somehow, someway he fell to them at #14. He's the 2nd ranked prospect coming out of Europe, scoring 9 points in 27 games playing in the Swedish Elite League as a 17-year old. The SEL is about as close to the NHL as you'll find and for him to put up five goals against the competition is proof of just how special he is.
Zibanejad is a power forward in every sense of the word, a guy with an incredible mean streak and temper who also possesses some very real goal-scoring skills. He's a born playmaker on offense, he's a great skater, his shooting and hands are perhaps the best in the draft and every scout I've read praises his hockey intelligence. The combination of technical perfection as a skater and shooter and his penchant for aggressive and physical play make him one of the most-wanted prospects in this draft.
He's also received praise for his defensive ability as well and you wonder if he had played in the CHL, instead of bouncing between junior leagues and the SEL in Sweden, he might have been a sure-fire top-5 pick. There's a good chance he becomes the "steal" of this draft, if he does end up falling out of the top ten. It should be noted, however, that he is a very recent addition to the "top ten pick" talk and as of just a few months ago was -- perhaps more realistically -- projected in the 13-25 range. In the recent SBN mock draft, Zibanejad was selected 10th.
You can read a good interview our good friends at the Copper & Blue had with Mika last fall, here.
Why they would pass:
Everytime a playmakeer comes out of Europe, the question is always "is he tough enough for the NHL". In the case of Mika Zibanejad, the question might be "is he too tough?"
The only true knock against Zibanejad is that he gets too emotional at times and loses his temper in the wrong way and at the wrong times during games. There's also some questions about his first step and initial quickness, but the fact that he's such a technically proficient skater should help him as he continues to grow and mature as a hockey player.
He's also just recently made the move from winger to center, earning high praise from his coaches and taking over the third-line center duties on his team in the SEL. In fact, there are some who say he'll be a better center than a winger as his defensive game is very important to him and he's such a proven playmaker. He's also a recent addition to the first round mocks, as he's absolutely flown up draft boards after being promoted to the SEL. Is he just a one-year wonder with a lot of hype?
Frankly, if he does fall to #14 you can just about gaurantee there's a 95% chance the Stars grab him immediately. Unless Siemens is available as well. Choices.....
Scouting report and video after the jump...
What they're saying:
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.
--NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb
Versatility is also a bonus for Zibanejad who can play center or either wing as right-shooting player. He's a long strider who gets up and down the surface quickly and at 6-2, 192 pounds has plenty of room to fill out and get stronger. Zibanejad has soft hands and the vision/instincts to make plays all over the ice. He's also got a hard, heavy shot that he uses to great effect, sometimes seeing time at the point on the power play.
Not many weaknesses to find in Zibanejad's game. Initial quickness and first step need to improve along with agility and footwork, but is a wide-base skater with solid technique and fundamentals, so he should be able to address this with speed/agility drills and off-ice plyometrics. Also has a bit of a temper- must learn to keep his emotions in check at times.
Mika Zibanejad highlights 2010-11 (via nhldraftvideo)