From one reach prospect in Sven Bartschi to the next we move on to Mika Zibanejad.
A prospect largely considered to go in the top-10, some draft circles have him falling into the 11--14 range. Although it seems unlikely, if a few defensemen start coming off the board early, teams might jump to get the next best available one before they miss out on the top-end defensive talent the first round provides.
If just one or two teams grab a defensemen rather than a forward, you never know who might fall to the Rangers. If Zibanejad is one of those players that fall, the Rangers should thank their lucky stars.
Zibanejad put up five goals and four assists for nine points in 26 Swedish Elite League games. I have said it here before and I will say it again: The Swedish Elite League is the second best hockey league on the planet in my opinion. For Zibanejad to be putting up any numbers as a 17-year-old playing against men, it's impressive.
What's even more impressive? His scouting reports, which you can find after the jump.
NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb
"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."
Zibanejad is the biggest riser in the final rankings this year; something that doesn't come as much of a surprise given our placement of him in the mid-term edition. The versatile Swede has a big body and plays both ends of the ice equally well. Skates well and can cover a lot of ice from the center position while being strong in the face-off circle. Might not have the highest offensive ceiling out of some of the players in the Top 10-15, but still has first line potential and could still be a great second line center if his offensive upside isn't there.
Just something to note here about The Scouting Report's preview on him. Anytime someone tells you if a prospect doesn't reach his potential he will still be a great second line player, you know you're getting a quality prospect. Anyway, here's what Bruins 2011 Draft Watch had to say on him:
Strengths:The best Europe-based forward prospect for 2011 and zooming up boards a legitimate power center option. Outstanding pivot with size, skating, sense, shot and spirit. Not a blazing fast skater, but has a fluid stride that will get more powerful as he gets stronger in his leg drive. Has very good edge control and leans into players, using his strength and power to go to the net. Has the ability to separate with breakway speed, but is more of a straight ahead player than a shifty, elusive one. Already plays a physical game and still has some growing and filling out to do. Willing and energetic hitter. Excellent puckhandler who sees the ice well, has soft hands and a quick, heavy shot. Knows how to find the soft areas of the offensive zone and isn't afraid to unload when the shooting lanes are there. Slick passer/playmaker as well. Plays with some fire and competitiveness- wants to be the best player on the ice and has some real swagger and personality. Good, solid defensive awareness. Not a stellar defensive player, but will backcheck and play responsibly in his own end. A kid who exudes personality, passion and determination- you can read it in his face and actions on the ice.
Weaknesses: 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.
There isn't much debate, if Zibanejad is on the board when the Rangers are calling names Glen Sather and Gordie Clark will give him a good hard look, and probably pick him.
Zibanejad is another one of those complete players, a guy who can not only hurt you with his goal scoring ability but his vision as well. He's not an elusive player, which actually would help him make the transition to North American hockey. European rinks are wider than the NHL's, so elusive players have more space to maneuver around defenseman. A straightforward player, like Zibanejad, doesn't use the extra space as much, thus he won't have as hard of a time transitioning to the smaller ice surfaces.
We've discussed in length how badly the Rangers need another legitimate goal scorer in their prospect pool to go along with Chris Kreider. And although Zibanejad might not be as pure of a goal scorer as Joel Armia or Matt Puempel, his balanced skill set is far too much to pass up on. Remember, you can't have enough guys in the system that are just as dangerous at dishing the puck as they are as shooting it.
To add onto all of that, he's defensively responsible, which is a good thing to see from a younger player. Especially once who's defensively responsible in a league filled with players stronger than him.
Anyway, I know he probably won't fall, but in case he does (or the Rangers trade up) thoughts on this kid?