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'Dream coming true' for top Senators prospect

Zibanejad inks entry-level contract, will aim to make team's roster out of training camp

Wednesday, 07.13.2011 / 3:58 PM ET / Features
By Rob Brodie  -
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\'Dream coming true\' for top Senators prospect
Mika Zibanejad, the Senators' top pick (sixth overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, signed an entry-level deal with the team today and hopes to make the Ottawa roster out of training camp (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Mika Zibanejad's biggest hockey dream has taken a key step closer to becoming reality.

The Senators' top pick (sixth overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft inked his first contract with the team today, assuring he'll get a chance to make Ottawa's roster out of training camp in September. Zibanejad has one year remaining on his current deal with Djurgarden of the Swedish Elite League but can forego it if he lands a spot with the Senators.

"I'm excited. It's a dream coming true, for sure," said Zibanejad, an 18-year-old native of Huddinge, Sweden, a suburb of Stockholm. "You've always been dreaming (since you were younger) and you always have a goal to make it to the NHL. I think I'm one step closer, but there's so much hard work left.

"I'll try to do everything I can to make the team and help the Ottawa Senators win the Stanley Cup someday. It's very exciting and I'm really happy."

Under the terms of the transfer agreement between the National Hockey League and the International Ice Hockey Federation, Zibanejad had to sign with the Senators by Friday or he would have been obligated to return to Djurgarden to complete his contract there. If he doesn't make the Ottawa roster this fall, the Senators are obligated to send him back to that club team in Sweden.

"It's great to get him signed," said Tim Murray, the Senators' assistant general manager. "There was a bit of a push to get him signed if we wanted him to come over here and at least try out for the team this year. We thought that was important, that he get over here for part of the summer, then go through the full training camp and exhibition games so we could get a real good evaluation on him and go from there.

"The only way that was going to happen was if he did sign a contract."

Zibanejad was one of five prospects the Senators brought to Ottawa in advance of the June draft in St. Paul, Minn. He was immediately taken by the city and the team, a feeling that was reinforced by the reception he received during the Senators' annual development camp earlier this month.

"I really like the city," he said. "I really liked everything I saw. I like the arena, I like the facility at the practice rink (Bell Sensplex). I love the fans there already and I really enjoyed it. I was there for a visit before the draft and I got the feeling this was the city I wanted to play in and this was the team I wanted to play for.

"I'm really happy that they took me and I'm really happy that I've got the chance to be an Ottawa Senator."

Whether he'll wear the Senators jersey come the fall will depend greatly on the kind of summer Zibanejad has in terms of physical development. Murray, for one, has no doubt the prized prospect will whatever is necessary to give himself the best opportunity.

"The summer is the question," said Murray. "He has to have a big summer, as most kids do. But he's a big strong guy (6-2, 200 pounds), he's a driven guy and he wants it very badly. He's going to become a player, it's just a matter of when. We hope it's this training camp that he shows that he's ready. But he's on the right arc and a high arc.

"We know now that he's coming here and he'll get a full opportunity to make the team."

Count on Zibanejad, who's heading back to Sweden today, making the most of that chance. He'll return to Ottawa in August to work out under in the direction of Senators conditioning coach Chris Schwarz.

"I'm going to prepare myself as best as possible for the camp and I want to make sure I give myself an honest chance to make the team this year," he said. "If I don't, I'm going back to Sweden and I don't think that's a bad idea to be there (either), maybe develop and get bigger and stronger for one more year."




1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
3 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
4 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
5 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
6 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
7 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
8 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48


E. Karlsson 74 19 41 9 60
K. Turris 74 22 32 -1 54
B. Ryan 70 18 35 9 53
M. Stone 72 19 33 14 52
M. Hoffman 71 26 20 19 46
M. Zibanejad 72 19 24 2 43
M. Michalek 66 13 21 3 34
C. MacArthur 54 13 14 -10 27
D. Legwand 72 9 18 2 27
A. Chiasson 68 11 15 -4 26
A. Hammond 14 1 1 .938 1.92
C. Anderson 14 12 8 .923 2.48