Mika Zibanejad is already a fan favourite amongst fans in Ottawa, being talked about as one of the brightest stars in the shining prospect pool that is the Ottawa Senators system.
An ocean and some non-important not-so-good-at-hockey countries away, there’s another capital city in which Mika has been bringing excitement to hockey fans. However, in Stockholm, things aren’t as cheerful when it comes to the local team.
The winningest franchise in Swedish hockey with 16 championship titles, “The Pride of Stockholm”, Djurgården, was relegated from the Swedish Elite League following their loss to SEL-2 team Leksand on Saturday. While this doesn’t have any direct effect on Mika Zibanejad’s future, it’s never a good thing to be a part of a season like that, especially since the team was expected to be contenders and one of the reasons for sending him back was to keep him in a comfortable, winning environment rather than staying in North America.
The fans of big European clubs, no matter if we’re talking soccer, hockey or any other sport, demand much of their players, and support them loud and proud. However, when things aren’t going well, sometimes the fans can turn on you. Former Hamilton Bulldog and good friend of Kyle Turris and Brian Elliott Kyle Klubertanz experienced that this spring, being the scapegoat for Djurgården’s failures. Of fear of what the fans might do (probably more “sending a message” than physical threats), he’s been having a security guard around his apartment during the relegation playoffs.
Hopefully, Zibanejad can leave all the negativity of a bad season behind him and enjoy the atmosphere around the Ottawa Senators playoff run, while hopefully also learning a thing or two that makes him more ready to play come September. While he will be around the team, I wouldn’t expect Ziba to draw into the lineup unless something dramatic happens.
Another minor story to follow with the relegation of Djurgården is what the future will hold for Senators 2011 draft-pick Fredrik Claesson. His contract is up, but he’s Djurgården through and through and probably wouldn’t have a problem staying with the team for SEL-2. However, he also has been making comments earlier in the year about how he wouldn’t mind going the AHL route, as it's perceived that's the only way for a player like him to get to the NHL. Hopefully, his love of his hometown club won’t force him to take a step backwards next year as his development has been promising the last twelve months.
We know Mika’s coming over, but what does the future hold for the other Swedish Viking at the top of the prospect rankings, Jakob “Golden Helmet” Silfverberg? His team is currently up 3-1 in the semi-finals of the SEL playoffs, and an appearance in the finals would mean he’s not done until April 15th (game 4) at the very best, and probably even later than that. That would mean him coming over right in the middle or at the end of the first round. If Brynäs were to advance to the finals (they're playing as I post this), the Senators probably would have to beat out their first-round opponent for Silfverberg to be an option. Speaking on Ottawa radio yesterday Murray was clear in stating he'd like to get Silfverberg over and dressed in a few games, as a year is burned on Jakob's ELC regardless if he plays or not.
With former Senator Andreas Dackell recently announcing his retirement due to a knee injury, Silfverberg is now the permanent captain. Hopefully for Brynäs, things will end in a better way than the last time a blonde with an Ottawa Senators contract captained his team to the finals in which he was also the leading playoff scorer.
The organization has to make a decision on whether or not to give a contract to 2010 fourth-rounder Marcus Sörensen for the upcoming season If they don’t, they lose his rights. Sörensen has been under contract for Forsberg’s SEL team, but didn’t quite make the cut and has been one of the top players for SEL-2 bottom-feeder Borås this year. While Sörensen might not be where the organization wanted him to be at at this point, however being a Forsberg favourite suggests he'll probably play for him next year. The only factor standing in the way would be the team's internal contract limit.
Do you like reading about Erik Karlsson? Good. In this article from Swedish site HockeySverige, Uffe Bodin talks to Karlsson’s Swedish strength and conditioning coach, Peter Fröberg - "Erik didn’t add a pound this summer. We worked on his coordination, balance and explosiveness and he got stronger on the ice as a result". It’s easy to throw around clichés about Erik having to add weight to be able to throw bigger hits (Norris!) or handle the power forwards cutting in from the outside better, but it’s very tough to add lots of muscle fast without compromising agility. If Erik could add 10 pounds and keep all of his agility, great, but wouldn’t you rather have the Erik that we see now rather than one that can handle some things a little bit better physically, and be a little bit slower?
If you’re already looking ahead to the draft this summer, the U18 Worlds from Brno are coming up. A stacked Swedish roster will feature players like sniping wingers Sebastian Collberg and Pontus Åberg as well as two intelligent, mobile defensemen in Hampus Lindholm and Ludvig Byström, all projected mid-to-late first round. Hopefully, though, the whole-hearted focus on the draft can be put off a little later than last year.