This season, New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad put up career-high numbers in goals and points. In a season that was cut short for the star player by both a pandemic and a major injury, the star player managed to score forty-one goals and tally seventy-five points in just fifty-seven games.
Zibanejad led the league in average goals per game and was the first Rangers player to hit the forty goal mark since Rick Nash in the 2015-2016 season. It’s pretty clear that Zibanejad has what it takes to be the leading center on the rising New York Rangers, but what else should fans expect from him?
Mika Zibanejad, since being traded to the Rangers in the summer of 2016, has proven to exemplify fantastic leadership abilities. Since the 2018-2019 season, Zibanejad has worn an “A” on his jersey, signifying that he is one of four alternate captains for the team.
Since the Rangers don’t have a captain right now, Zibanejad, Marc Staal, Chris Kreider, and Jesper Fast carry the responsibility of team leadership on their backs. Earlier this season, the Rangers were expected to announce their new captain right before their season opener, but eventually opted to keep their four alternates for one more year. It is likely that the new captain will be named sometime before next season starts, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mika Zibanejad wearing the C. As a young reliable player who seems to have reached his prime, he would be the perfect choice to lead this team of young stars to future victories. While it isn’t set in stone that he’ll be the choice for captaincy, don’t be surprised if we end up seeing it happen.
For the past couple of seasons, Rangers fans constantly questioned if Zibanejad would be good enough to be a quality number one center for the team. But after this year, it’s clear that he has what it takes. The only question is now, will he be able to recreate this year’s success in future seasons. It isn’t uncommon for players to regress after having stellar seasons. One great example of this from recent seasons is Buffalo Sabres forward Jeff Skinner.
In 2019, Skinner put up a career-high forty goals during his first season with the team. After that fantastic season, he signed a new contract for $72 million over eight years. The Sabres had high hopes for him, but this season he only managed to score fourteen goals. Buffalo knows what it’s like to have a star player one season turn into a mediocre player the next, and that is what fans of the New York Rangers are scared of now.
While it is probable that Zibanejad may have hit his peak this season, we shouldn’t expect him to dip very much next year, if at all. Zibanejad is only twenty-seven years old, having just entered his prime years of hockey. He also plays for the Rangers, a team that is still young and acquiring key pieces for their future. It is likely that he will be playing alongside Chris Kreider and Alexis Lafreniere this season, so fans should expect similar numbers from Zibanejad.
This is all speculation, of course, as the only way to truly know how Mika Zibanejad will perform is to watch him play next season. New York Rangers fans should definitely expect big things from their top center, though. Whether it be captaincy, more career-high statistics, or the opportunity to play with this year’s number one draft pick, it’ll be interesting to see what top center Mika Zibanejad has to offer. The future is bright for the New York Rangers, and Zibanejad is a big part of that.