Geek of the Week: Mika Zibanejad

by Mike Zacour on May 19, 2019


With the number of remaining playoff teams quickly dwindling we are going to go a non-playoff route this week and discuss Mika Zibanejad

Zibanejad turned 26 years old in April and was born in Huddinge, Sweeden.  He was drafted 6th overall by the Ottawa Senators in 2011 and traded to the New York Rangers for forward Derick Brassard in 2016 (Sens fans might want that one back, along with a few others). 

Zibanejad rightfully received the key to the number one center role in the Big Apple this season and there is no reason to expect that to change next year.  Well almost no reason, which we’ll discuss later.

Zibanejad definitely proved he can handle the role as he posted a career high 74 points and led the forward group in New York averaging high 20:34 in ice time.  That’s an increase of 2:36 per game from the previous year. More responsibility equated to more points.

It was nice to see 82 games from Zibanejad as the previous two seasons he showed flashes of brilliance and had extended point-per-game runs but suffered from injuries and missed some significant time.

Upon returning from injury in 2016-17 and 2017-18, he just didn’t look like the same player and his point totals indicated that he wasn’t as he posted 37 points in 56 games and 47 points in 72 games respectively.

So what changed this season?  As mentioned he had more ice time. Zibanejad also shot more and as a result he scored more.  He posted his second straight campaign with 200+ shots and improved to a career high 236 shots as well as his first 30 goal campaign.  An upward trend in shots is something we always want to see. 

Zibanejad's shooting percentage was 12.7%, which was exactly the same as the previous year.  His career shooting percentage sits at 10.9% and with him shooting more the last couple seasons we could argue that a slightly higher percentage than his career average can be expected moving forward.  No problems there.

Zibanejad’s PDO sat at very normal 997, his 5on5 shooting percentage was 8.8%, and his points per 60 minutes was at 2.6.  His IPP was a bit high at 75.5% but he’s also the best offensive player on his team so it’s not totally unreasonable to think it could remain high-ish next season.

In one of my leagues that is heavily point based (special team points accounting for a 50 percent boost in point value) we can see that Zibanejad fared quite nicely:
 

Rank

Player

GP

G

A

PPP

SHP

GWG

HAT

Fantasy

Points

48

Nicklas Backstrom

80

22

52

25

0

5

1

179

49

Mika Zibanejad

82

30

44

23

2

5

1

179

50

Evgeni Malkin

67

21

51

26

0

5

0

175


Table courtesy of Fantasy Hockey Geek

A couple pretty big names to be sitting in between and Zibanajed cracked the top 50 in this league.  Hard to believe he was a free agent pickup in October, but in shallower point based leagues it was very possible he was overlooked early.  That won’t be the case next season as 70+ point players generally aren’t ignored.

Banger leagues or multi-cat league fantasy GM’s will already know that Zibanejad has been emerging as a stud.  This season he was good for 1.63 hits/game, 0.80 blocks/game, he took 831 faceoffs (won 49.7% of them), and as mentioned he had 236 shots.  Those are the kind of numbers fantasy hockey fans just love to see.

We know Zibanejad is good and 70+ points appears sustainable. Is there a player’s career trajectory that could be more impacted, either negatively or positively, by the 2019 draft than Zibanejad?

The New York Rangers will select either center Jack Hughes or winger Kaapo Kakko second overall.  Take that to the bank. The only thing that matters is which one the New Jersey Devils decide to take first overall.

No one can ignore what Kakko has been doing in the World Championship. Super impressive, but it’s a small sample size to go on. Generally centers are more valuable than wingers in the real world NHL, so the smart money is probably still on Hughes to go first overall.

Which could leave a dynamic goal scoring 18-year old winger for Zibanejad to play out his career with. The impact may not be felt right away but both Kaako and Hughes look like they will eventually emerge as the real deal in the NHL. 

If New Jersey shocks the world and takes Kakko first overall, then we have to ask where that leaves Zibanejad going forward.  Again, the impact may not be felt immediately, but Hughes is primed to be a number one center in the NHL.

If you own Zibanejad you ought to be hoping for Kakko with that second overall pick.

If you have the opportunity to draft Zibanejad next season his ranking could rise or fall (slightly) depending on how the real NHL draft goes, and which part of New York the two top prospects end up playing in.