Sweden’s chances of repeating as World Junior champions have taken a major blow.
That’s because Ottawa GM Bryan Murray informed the masses Thursday that highly-touted prospect Mika Zibanejad would remain with AHL Binghamton over the Holiday season.
“Our opinion is the best way to continue [Zibanejad’s] progress towards becoming an impact player with the Senators is to spend the full season here,” Murray told NHL.com. “He’s learning now to play the North American style and continues to progress playing for [Senators head coach] Luke Richardson in Binghamton.”
Keeping Zibanejad out of the ’13 tournament will be major news in Sweden. He was the hero of last year’s gold medal-winning side, scoring the game-winning goal in OT to defeat Russia 1-0 in the final.
It was Sweden’s first World Junior championship in 31 years.
Zibanejad, 19, was taken sixth overall at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and had a brief nine-game stint in Ottawa last year before being dispatched to Swedish club Djurgarden.
This is his first full year of professional hockey in North America, so it’s not surprising the Sens want to keep close tabs on his progression.
It’s also possible Murray didn’t want to mess with momentum, as Zibanejad only recently scored his first goal for Binghamton — despite playing 16 games.