It is never easy for a first round pick to meet expectations, but it might be even tougher for someone who made a big climb in the rankings prior to the draft like Mika Zibanejad did.
However, after an adjustment period to the North American game, fans of the Ottawa Senators are catching a glimpse of the player the Senators anticipated when they used the 6th overall pick in the 2011 draft on the Swedish centre with Iranian heritage.
While not at the level yet on a consistent basis, Zibanejad has developed into a player who you can play 15 minutes a night and not worry about his ability to play at either end of the ice. His faceoff percentage has improved, and he has been over 50% in the last 3 games.
The offensive chances are coming, and as the team around him gains more confidence around the net, it could rub off on him and the pressure to score could be relieved a bit, allowing him to relax a bit and just focus on playing his game and developing. He doesn’t need to carry the team on his shoulders, and he has the skill level right now to be a contributor.
Zibanejad has 10 points in his 23 games this season and is a +5, a testament to his development at both ends of the ice.
While I can still see him transferring to the wing to be a top 6 forward when all hands are on deck, he has shown that he could develop into a top line centre if the need be. Defining what role will he will have going forward will go a long way to determining the type of player he will be.
He will only get stronger, and that will lead to his becoming a true power forward who can crash along the boards and use his grit as well as his skill.
Buckle up, its going to be a good ride watching him continue to mature in front of our eyes.