It is a question that often pops up around this time of year. Should a team release their eligible prospects for the World Juniors, even if they are playing pro?
Well, for the Senators, this question has come up surrounding the man who scored the Gold Medal winning goal at last year’s tournament, Mika Zibanejad. I, for one, just naturally assumed that he would be released from Binghamton to participate against the best in the world at his age group. Not so fast though. Bryan Murray is apparently leaning toward keeping him in Bingo as opposed to letting him go to UFA for the tournament, if that decision hasn’t already been made.
According to quotes in some recent articles, Murray wants Zibanejad to continue his adjustment to the North American style and that his development is better served learning from coach Luke Richardson.
This is always atricky situation. For Canadians, it usually comes up for players playing in the NHL, since eligible CHL and NCAA players aren’t eligible to play in the AHL. However, the same rules don’t apply for European trained players and the Senators must make the decision regarding Zibanejad.
As a fan of the World Juniors, I anticipate seeing Senators prospects playing in the tournament. I hadn’t considered the possibility the Zibanejad wouldn’t be there as a leader for the Swedish National team. For years you hear the likes of Pierre Maguire and Bob MacKenzie questioning decisions not to release NHLers for the tournament because of the potential developmental opportunities and experience it provides. I would think that a two or three week absence, especially with the unlikely event of a Labour settlement in the NHL, wouldn’t delay his adjustment to North American Hockey that much.
If it was me, I would be wishing him luck in capturing a Silver Medal this season!