The New York Rangers are lucky to have an elite first-line center in Mika Zibanejad. The Rangers have watched Zibanejad develop into one of the top centers in the NHL over the course of his tenure, but major hockey outlets continue to disrespect his abilities. NHL Network’s newest edition of its yearly center ranking disrespected Zibanejad, placing him just 12th league-wide; far lower on the list than he belongs.
Zibanejad has been a consistent point producer for the Rangers
Since being acquired by the team from Ottawa back in 2016, Zibanejad has totaled 455 points in 486 games, coming close to being a point-per-game player. He had his career-best performance last year, with a stellar 91-point showing. That total was the second-highest total on the Rangers, behind only Artemi Panarin’s 92 points.
Zibanejad also shines on special teams, playing on the first power play unit for almost his entire tenure with the Rangers. Of his 39 goals in 2023, 20 of them came on the power play. He’s a consistent goal scorer who has the ability to find the back of the net from almost anywhere on the ice.
Leading the Rangers in the locker room
Before the Rangers named Jacob Trouba captain last offseason, many expected that Zibanejad would be given the title. Despite him not wearing the C, he still provides an immense amount of leadership to the Blueshirts. He is the second-longest-tenured Ranger, only behind Chris Kreider, and has been working with new young talent for years. Players continuously look to Zibanejad for advice and leadership. It’s known that he brings a certain energy to the team on and off the ice that gets people motivated and excited to play.
Zibanejad’s ability to contribute to the Rangers outside of simple point production is a rare trait in the NHL. Stat totals are not the only factor in determining an elite player. While there are many centers such as Jack Eichel (VGK) that have higher point totals than Zibanejad, other abilities need to be considered while discussing top players.
Where should Zibanejad rank?
Few analysts would rank Zibanejad as the top center in the NHL. Players such as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl play on a freakishly elite level to which not many compare. But ranking Zibanejad only 12th is somewhat ridiculous.
If you factor in points, leadership, special teams, defensive abilities, and every aspect of hockey that should be accounted for, Zibanejad should easily be a top-10 center. Players such as Rage Thompson and Jack Hughes are great, but it’s hard to say that they should be ranked higher than the Rangers’ number-one center.