Of all the report cards I’ve written for this site over the past decade, I have to say this Mika Zibanejad report card has to be one of the hardest. On one hand you have a center – who just by the numbers alone – you would think would be an easy A grade. 72 points in 81 regular season games. 16 points in 16 playoff games. He wins faceoffs. He plays in every situation. On the surface, its not easy to critique his game.

However, while grading players is a subjective exercise in and of itself, I think what helps contextualize these reports is establishing some sort of framework. So for me, you have to evaluate a player based on their position, their role within a team & its system, & how they compare against other players around the league who have comparable roles. This is similar to how Dave graded Kaapo Kakko.

With that framework in mind, grading Mika starts to become a bit clearer. This season, he ranked 10th in the league in powerplay points (among centers) and 11th in the league in powerplay goals, while being 11th in PP TOI. Clearly, this is A material.

However, even strength tells a bit of a different story. During the regular season, he ranked 64th in the league in points (among centers) and 82nd in goals despite being 38th in ice time and starting the majority of his zone starts in the OZ (54%). This puts him in a cohort with guys like Cirelli (TB), Sharangovich (CGY), Stephenson (VGK), & Rossi (MIN). All solid players, but not the crowd you’d expect your 1C to be in, let alone a 1C on a Cup contender. For me, I’d say this is C level work.

As for defense, despite the proliferation of advanced metrics like expected goals against, RAPM, etc., I still think that aspect of the game is extremely difficult to measure. There are just too many variables that impact these metrics (e.g., role, competition faced, linemates, system, etc.) to say with authority who is good and not good at that side of the puck.

His heatmaps give you some context here, which says that when he is on the ice, defensively the team is around league average. There’s also little difference whether or not he’s on the ice. I’d give him a C here.

For the playoffs, he put up 2.82 points per 60, which as of June 17th is 15th among centers playing the postseason. Solid but not spectacular.

Beyond stats, for the third postseason in four years, I found myself wanting more from him. Not just offensively, but on the forecheck, low zone board play, helping our defense on breakouts, etc. All things you’d expect a center to do in a 2-1-2 system.

Offensively, it seems he can only be productive when given space (PP & PK), which there isn’t much of in the later rounds of the playoffs. Here I’d give him a C at best.   

So how you grade Mika overall, ultimately comes down to how much weight you put in the aforementioned areas. For me, the Rangers don’t get to the playoffs without him, but I’m skeptical they can win a Cup with him as a top 6 player.

Final Grade: C+

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