Friend of the blog and Senators prospect Mikael Wikstrand is right in the middle of a very succesful SEL-2 campaign for his Mora. The 2012 7th rounder has put up 11 goals and 11 assists in 36 games, and enjoyed a fairly successful World Juniors campaign as well, which really sparked interest from SEL clubs, one tier above the club he grew up playing for.
So what did Wikstrand choose? After going on a Fabian Brunnström-like tour, visiting with the interested clubs, would he go to Swedish giant Färjestad to go back to his hometown? Perhaps the NHL factory up in Örnsköldsvik to play for Modo? Join his WJC coach Roger Rönnberg as he’s set to take over Frölunda?
Nope. On Tuesday, Mora announced that they’ve been able to extend Wikstrand’s contract for another year. After being chased by basically the entire SEL, this is a very surprising move. One would think, that after the success he’s had at the second tier of Swedish hockey, he would want to take another step upwards in his development. Granted, Mora are still in the race for a promotion to the SEL, as they currently hold the seventh spot in the league, the last spot to be in the knockout round where the winner gets to join the top-3 teams of the SEL-2 in a playoff league versus the worst two teams of the SEL.
While we shouldn’t neglect Wikstrand’s own feelings about this decision, he obviously got what he wanted here and surely developing where he’s comfortable and with family close by can’t be all that bad, one has got to wonder what the Senators thought about this decision. Luckily, some very strong hints were revealed by Wikstrand himself in an interview with HockeySverige today:
"Ottawa said it was up to me, but at the same time they obviously wanted me in the SEL, I know what I can get here in Mora. Lots of time on the power play and the kill and the time to develop my game."
SEL-2 is not a terrible league, by any means, but it’s very rare that players go right from it to the NHL. Patrik Berglund did that a few years back, as did Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Others, who have opted to stay with their SEL-2 team instead of adding increased competition, like Flames’ Mikael Backlund, have required some transition time. Wikstrand goes on to further justify this decision to remain at a lower level:
"There were lots of clubs calling, actually, but I felt that I wouldn’t get as much ice-time there for next year that I would here. With Mora I can play the 25-30 minutes per game that I need. I like to play that much and that’s why it felt right to stay here another year. Ottawa obviously wanted me in the SEL but also said that I got to make my own decision if that felt right."
Should the Senators want to sign Wikstrand to an NHL contract, even just to avoid a Tim Erixon bailout, they are free to do so until June this year. Wikstrand’s rights expire in June 2014.
I should say this really came as a big surprise to everyone over here, since he’s been one of the hottest commodities after his strong start with Mora, and elevating that with the exposure of a solid World Juniors tournament in Ufa. For him to make a kind of lateral non-move like this is a little bit disappointing. Not that it won’t develop him, but it would’ve been nice to watch him try to take another step up in competition. If no team could promise him power play time, however, this is a more understandable decision. We’ve seen many careers stagnate because of lack of special teams time. I suspect the Sens will lock him up on a contract this summer, have him over for development camp and then let him stay in Sweden for another year before deciding if they should bring him over to Binghamton for his first year of the contract or if he’s better off taking that step up to the SEL with another SEL-2 season under his belt.
After two consecutive losses, Senators head coach Paul MacLean joined Team 1200's In the Box yesterday morning. The 'Stache hits on a number of important topics including Craig Anderson's play, his trepidation in dressing Borowiecki and Wiercioch in the same lineup and the ol' three-legged stool.
Like in any other interview, MacLean touched on a few things that I did not bother to include in this post, so if you wish to listen to the full interview, you can do so here, or via streaming the embedded audio below.
As always, my thoughtsare in bold.no comments
Yesterday the Senators announced a Mika Zibanejad recall from Binghamton.
At first glance, the news is surprising in the sense that when looking at his cumulative body of work this season; injuries and inconsistent production have plagued the young Swedish center. In fact, they contributed to why the Senators did not extend him an invitation to their abbreviated training camp.
So although he only has four goals and eleven points in 23 games, since returning to the Binghamton lineup on January 12th, he has three goals, four points, 26 shots, and is a +6 in seven games.
Is this recent stretch of good play indicative of just how important the organization views points in this 48-game schedule?
It sure seems that way.no comments
Zibanejad Practicing In Ottawa
Senators recall forward Mika Zibanejad from Binghamton.— Renaud Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) January 28, 2013
The AHL All Star break is the official explanation for the timing of the recall, and the scuttlebutt seems to be he's still unlikely to play tomorrow, but with Alfie getting over/still suffering from the flu you never know. Judging from the plaudits MacLean sent Mika's way during his 9 game stint last year ("he's an NHL player, blah, blah, blah)...I wouldn't be totally shocked to see him thrown in the lineup. Exciting times.
A noice Z-BAD goal of late.
I Keep Forgetting Mike Lundin
The head coach had an update on the health of Lundin in an appearance on In The Box this morning:
"He's not close (to playing), I think he got the pins out of his fingers, I"m gonna say yesterday or the day before. But he's still not skating with the team yet until he gets the proper flexibility, and that could be...I"m gonna take a guess and say another ten days at least before he gets that, before he'd be able to skate with us. And it could be another ten days before he even gets in the lineup, but we'll see how it is. We're looking forward to getting him, first of all just getting him to see him in practice."
Original timeline from Murray had Lundin getting healthy right about now. I guess we'd all be talking about this guy a lot more if the D was struggling as much as many of us expected.
Good Lehner Quote
Since returning to Bingo, Robin has started two games, won both, and stopped 78/80 shots in the process. Prettay good. He was also saying all the right things in comments to the Press & Sun-Bulletin Saturday night:
"It's a little bit hard for me. People like to put me as immature or whatnot, but the guy that likes to get sent down probably won't get called up again. I really like this team and city and I've grown to love this arena. We've had our ups and downs through the years. It started with tough love and it's been going uphill from there. Last year, speaking for myself, I wasn't having any fun. It was not a great atmosphere and this year has been awesome. when you play happy, you play better."
Ottawa was ranked 29th last year in PIM/G, through 5 games they're being penalized more per game (14.8), but have still managed to leapfrog 16 teams into 13th place. I love small samples!no comments
Just the other day, Scott touched upon a report by Andrey Osadchenko indicating Ottawa was in talks to sign undrafted defenceman Viktor Antipin.
Although Ottawa’s depth in general is enviable – just ask Eugene Melnyk – there’s a discernible difference between quantity versus quality.
On the blue line, a number of players have graduated from Binghamton to join Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen on the Senators’ blueline. We’re only two games into the start of the 2013 NHL season, but Patrick Wiercioch has not looked out of place and Mark Borowiecki is still waiting to make his first appearance of the season.
There are other defencemen within the system too.
Eric Gryba is one player whose prospects the organization seem to be quite high on. Luke Richardson was on the Team 1200 yesterday afternoon singling Gryba out as being one of the key reasons why the B-Sens haven’t missed a beat despite the absence of the players who graduated to the NHL.
And I haven’t even mentioned 2012 first rounder Cody Ceci. Having participated in Ottawa’s improvised training camp, one can hope that an extended playoff run with the Owen Sound Attack will help expedite his development and put him on the fast track for success.
The problem for Ottawa is that Ceci may realistically be one to three years away from being a dependable NHL regular. While the ceilings of the Senators remaiing defensive propects are somewhat limited.
For an organization that seemingly has depth and skill at a number of positions, the hope for every Sens fan is that the team can create a balanced pool of prospects at every position so that when the team is poised to make its ascent to Stanley Cup contention, it has fewer internal weaknesses. Balanced depth allows the team to sustain its window of opportunity or at the very least, it allows the organization to peddle depth for better talent.
Having missed out on Justin Schultz earlier in the summer and with the team allegedly talking with the representatives for Antipin, the organization has obviously identified the backend as an area that needs addressing.
Besides pursuing Antipin, there are a number of other intriguing possibilities that are worth revisiting.no comments