Senators say Zibanejad staying in North America
Still too soon to decide whether he'll be released to Sweden for world juniors
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Mika Zibanejad got a short taste of hockey and life in North America last season, after the Ottawa Senators picked him No. 6 at the 2011 draft.
This season, he'll be on this side of the Atlantic far longer.
Ottawa Senators assistant GM Tim Murray told NHL.com that Zibanejad will spend the 2012-13 season in North America, either in the NHL with the Senators or with the club's American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Senators.
"He's staying no matter what," Murray said. "Whether it's Ottawa or Binghamton, we're not sending him back. So he's here."
Zibanejad, currently here with Team Sweden for the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp, started last season in Ottawa, but was returned to his Swedish team, Djurgardens, in late October.
"We wanted to keep him, that was the intent," Murray said. "Just the longer it went, you could see with him the loss of confidence. The NHL is a tough league for anybody, especially an 18-year-old kid coming from Europe for the first time. I thought he played pretty well. He had some good games. I think it was the right thing to do to send him back. Hopefully, that comes through in the next couple years."
Zibanejad, who scored the overtime goal in the championship game at the 2012 World Junior Championship, remains eligible for the 2013 tournament, set for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia. Murray said there's a chance the Senators could let Zibanejad play in the tournament. It's a similar situation they faced last year with goaltender Robin Lehner. The Senators opted to keep Lehner in Binghamton rather than release him for Team Sweden.
"For the world juniors, obviously then that's not a decision we have to make today," Murray said. "He's obviously on their team … We'll just have to do what we think is right for him. Is he playing 18 minutes a night in Ottawa? Is he playing 23 minutes a night in Binghamton? Who knows? Potentially he will be back playing in this tournament, but if I had to put odds on it I wouldn't even know where to place the odds."
The 19-year-old Zibanejad scored one of Sweden's goals on Thursday during its 10-2 loss to the United States, which is using this week as its summer development camp for its national junior team ahead of the 2013 WJC.
— Author: Adam Kimmelman