After putting up career numbers in goals, assists and points during the 2018-19 campaign, Mika Zibanejad quickly ascended into the New York Rangers’ number one center. There were questions about whether he could handle the promotion against tough competition, but Zibanejad clearly blew those expectations out of the water. Despite the disappointing finish in the standings, Zibanejad was one of very few bright spots during 2018-19 season, and gave management the answers they were seeking at a critical position.
Even with a career year behind him, there were still questions being asked whether Zibanejad would truly be a long-term solution for the Rangers as the 1C.
There’s a reason why Mika Zibanejad was the only other player besides Artemiy Panarin to receive a perfect grade from the Banter staff, and it was because he lit the league on fire once again. As if 2018-19 wasn’t enough evidence to support Zibanejad as the first-line center, his performance this season cemented him as New York’s number one pivot for the foreseeable future.
This year, in all situations, Zibanejad scored 41 goals and surpassed his previous career-high of 30 goals from 2018-19 in dominating fashion. Even with a slight dip in assists from the year prior, Zibanejad still managed to finish above the 30 assist mark for his second straight season. What’s even more impressive is that Zibanejad did all of this while only appearing in 57 games, after missing a 13-game stretch in early November because of an undisclosed upper-body injury.
The 27-year old Swedish center also lead the league in goals per game (0.71) and finished seventh overall in points per game (1.32). Had Zibanejad continued his goal scoring rate over an 82-game pace, he would have been on the cusp of a 60-goal and 107-point season.
Another large component of Zibanejad’s success was his incredible performance while the Rangers were on the man-advantage. As you can see highlighted by the dark orange areas in front of the net and off to the left faceoff circle, the Rangers power play more or less ran through Zibanejad on the left side.
His howitzer of a shot gave goaltenders issues, and even if the initial shot didn’t go in, it generated secondary chances at the top of the crease. Throughout 209 minutes of power play ice time, Zibanejad compiled 15 goals, 12 assists and 27 total points which was good for 10th overall in power play scoring. Had Zibanejad not missed a decent chunk of the season due to injury, he likely would have made a push towards the top of the list.
It also wouldn’t be a proper Mika Zibanejad report card if we didn’t take a second to highlight his ridiculous five-goal game against the Washington Capitals. Zibanejad tied the franchise record for most goals in a game, and became only the third player in franchise history to accomplish such a feat . If there was one moment that encapsulated Zibanejad’s monumental season in New York, it would certainly be this one.
Final Grade: A+
Banter Consensus: A+
Zibanejad’s career season helped lead the Rangers back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season, and gave the Rangers some much needed answers down the middle of the ice. He is currently under contract for two more seasons at a very modest $5.35 million contract.
If the future is anything like what we witnessed this past season, Mika Zibanejad is certainly in a position to have some of his best years in New York.