Mika Zibanejad won’t have a chance for a repeat performance as the star of the World Junior Hockey Championships.
The Ottawa Senators have decided not to release the 19-year-old to play in the tournament in Russia next month. Zibanejad was the hero of the 2012 tournament, scoring the gold medal-winning goal in overtime for Sweden against Russia in the tournament final in Calgary.
"We feel like keeping Mika here to play in North America is the best decision for his development,” Senators general manager Bryan Murray said in a statement. “As a young player and person, he’s learning how to play the North American style and continues to progress playing for Luke (Richardson) in Binghamton.”
Zibanejad was the club’s first-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He appeared in nine NHL games with the Senators last fall, but returned to his Swedish club team Djurgardens after he collected just one assist. This season, Zibanejad has been playing with the Senators AHL affiliate during the current lockout and he has collected one goal and six assists in 16 games.
If the lockout ends in the next few weeks, many feel that Zibanejad will have a legitimate opportunity to make the Senators NHL roster. It’s clear the organization has that mindset as they decided not to release him to the Swedish junior program.
"Our opinion is that the best way to continue his progress towards becoming an impact player with the Senators is to spend the full season here,” added Murray.