With the Dustin Penner trade producing a potential 12-22nd overall pick in this year's upcoming NHL draft, I thought we could look at some of the players Stu MacGregor and Co. may be looking at heading into the June draft.
That's future 2011 top-3 pick Adam Larsson getting absolutely embarrassed by Mika Zibanejad, a 6'2, 195lb forward playing with Djurgården of the Swedish Elite League. (Now for those of you who're wondering, Zibanejad isn't your typical Swedish name, but it's because his father is half-Persian).
After starting the season with Djurgarden's Jr squad, Zibanejad earned a call-up to the SEL team half-way through this season, and to this point has played 26 games.
Although he started slow, he's been at a near-point/game pace over his last 7-8 games, and has now put up 5-4-9 in 26 games (a 0.35 point/game pace on par with Magnus Paajarvi's 0.34 as a 17-year old in his pre-draft year in 2008-2009). He's actually recently replaced heralded Chicago prospect Marcus Kruger as the 2nd line center on the powerful Djurgarden team, and has seen more responsibility as his ice time has risen significantly in the past month. With the playoffs approaching, he's set to be a key player in Djurgarden's bid for a championship. He's been able to bring a strong physical game to complement his offensive production - reminding a lot of people of another Swede currently playing in North America...
I like to think of Zibanejad as the SEL's answer to Gabriel Landeskog, another Swede currently playing in the OHL who's being talked about as a guaranteed top-4 pick in the upcoming draft. They both play a North American style with gritty 2-way games and great skill. In my opinion his SEL offensive success is arguably more significant than Paajarvi's, as he seems to benefit less from the bigger European ice than Paajarvi did in putting up his numbers. He fights for space in high-percentage areas, and is more than capable of playing the cycle game along the boards - like your typical North American.
His recent surge has many thinking he could go in the 10-15 range, but he's definitely someone the Oilers should keep their eyes on as the draft approaches and they think about players to select with Los Angeles' 1st Round pick. If Djurgarden gets eliminated from the SEL playoffs early enough, he will likely be featured on Sweden's squad at the World U-18 Championships coming up in the spring. It'll be interesting to see if he can translate his recent success into dominance in a tournament against his peers.
Here's an Interview with Mika Zibanejad done by the guys at Copper & Blue earlier this season, before his successful call-up from Djurgarden's Jr-20 squad to their SEL team.