Stanley Cup Playoffs: Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators ace in the hole?

By Matthew Kirkpatrick

There was a familiar face skating at Ottawa Senators practice yesterday as the team prepares for their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal match up against the New York Rangers.

That face was of 2011 first round pick: Mika Zibanejad.

Zibanejad, fresh off his season in the Swedish Elite League was skating on the top line along side Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek.

It would seem that the Senators brain trust wanted to see how their prized prospect had developed over the winter after being sent home following a nine game try out with Ottawa in October.

The 2011 sixth-overall pick had a relatively pedestrian season in Sweden that saw him score just five goals and eight assists in 26 games. His season was not without success though as Zibanejad did score the golden goal in overtime against Team Russia to give Sweden their first IIHF under-20 championship in 31 years.

The rangy 18 year-old has the offensive skills that could help the Ottawa Senators in their quest to advance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the question remains: does the club want to burn the first year of his entry level contract by putting him into another game?

It appears that the plan for Zibanejad, for the time being, is to head to the clubs AHL affiliate in Binghamton to play the final two games of their season over the weekend, and then he will likely be recalled to skate with the “Black Aces” for as long as Ottawa is in the playoffs.

The chances of him actually seeing game action with Ottawa is fairly slim, but in the event of an injury to one of the Senators top-six forwards there is a slight possibility.

The door is also open if Paul MacLean thinks his team needs another dose of youthful exuberance to help get them over the hump. If you take one look at the wide eyed grin Zibanejad always wears, you know he has that in spades.

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