The Mika Zibanejad effectOctober 23, 2016, by
It’s early so far in the 2016-17 regular season, but certain things are starting to become apparent. One of the most basic is that the Rangers’ new found speed and skill is going to be tough for teams to handle, or at the very least fun to watch, and one of the players who best exemplifies this is Mika Zibanejad. Although losing Derick Brassard, a fan favorite, was touch for many early returns on Zibanejad are overwhelmingly positive. Chris has already touched on his efficacy on the powerplay, but I thought I’d go a little bit more into how he plays at even strength.
What we can see with our eyes is that Zibanejad is fast, has good hands, and makes good passes. In particular, one of the things I noticed when I broke down every single one of his goals from last season over the summer is that he has good hands in tight, particularly when he’s on the receiving end of a low angle, vertical pass, helping to generate shots in close. He’s also pretty adept at setting up high danger scoring chances for his linemates, as we’ve seen so far with Chris Kreider, complimenting their skills with his own speed and vision.
Given the effect we’ve seen him have on his teammates so far, I thought it was only appropriate to take a look at how he affects his teammates in general. While there simply isn’t enough data to draw any conclusions yet this season, there’s plenty of information we can look at from last season to give us an idea of Zibanejad’s impact on his teammates. Below you’ll find his With or Without You (WOWY) chart for last season with his most common linemates: Bobby Ryan, Alex Chiasson, and Mike Hoffman. This chart measures how well both Zibanejad and a given teammate played both with each other and individually, so you can get an idea of what affect they had on each other.
First we take a look at Alex Chiasson, with whom Zibanejad only played a handful of minuets last year. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Zibby had a profound impact on the former’s play, as the difference between how Chiasson played without Zibanejad and how he played with Zibanajed is profound. Next up we have Bobby Ryan, who it appears actually brought Zibanejad down – we can see that Bobby Ryan without Mika Zibanejad wasn’t so great, and together they were pretty good, but apart from Ryan Zibanejad shined. Lastly we’ve got Mike Hoffman, for whom things are little bit tighter. It appears here that Hoffman had the opposite effect of Ryan, elevating Zibanejad’s game when they were together.
What we can surmise from this is that Zibanejad typically makes his linemates better, but he can also be influenced by the players around him. This makes him a particularly good fit with Pavel Buchnevich and Chris Kreider, players with enough talent for them to feed off each other and mutually elevate their play. While it’s too early to tell exactly the extent to which Zibanejad influences and can be influenced by his teammates, soon enough we’ll have a better idea of just what the Zibanejad effect really is."The Mika Zibanejad effect",