x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Zibanejad set to take his chance in NHL

The Swede, who has Iranian heritage, is looking to make his mark after picked by the Ottawa Senators.

In Iran, "hockey" is assumed to be field hockey, not ice hockey, but that may change now that the Ottawa Senators have spent the sixth pick in the National Hockey League draft on Mika Zibanejad.

The 18-year-old centre from Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League has an Iranian father and is believed to be the first player of Iranian heritage taken in the NHL draft.

"Obviously, to be picked by Ottawa that early is an amazing feeling," Zibanejad said. "I'm very excited about it."

Zibanejad's father, Mehrdad, left Iran during the 1979 revolution. His son was born in Sweden.

"We've got a big guy who can skate, handle the puck, and will bring a real impact to our hockey team," Tim Murray, the Oilers assistant general manager, said. "I'm real excited to have Mika."

Zibanejad speaks English, Swedish and Finnish, a bit of Farsi and is studying French.

"I've got a lot of languages going on," he said.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a centre from British Columbia, was the first player taken in the draft, going to the Edmonton Oilers. Nugent-Hopkins had 75 assists in the Western Hockey League last season, and the Oilers wonder if he has a bit of Wayne Gretzky in him.

The Oilers also had the first pick last year and took the winger Taylor Hall, who could end up paired on the same line with Nugent-Hopkins.

Six of the first eight players taken Friday night are centres, and four of the top 10 hold Swedish citizenship. Zibanejad falls into both categories.

Two topics not related to the draft attracted attention.

The new Winnipeg team, freshly relocated from Atlanta, announced they would be known as the Jets, the name of the Canadian city's first NHL club, which moved to Phoenix in 1996 and became the Coyotes.

Also, the Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks made a big trade. The Wild sent all-star defenceman Brent Burns and their 2012 second-round pick to the Sharks, and they received a pair of forwards, Devin Setoguchi, a former 30-goal scorer, and Charlie Coyle, a first-round pick last year; plus another first-round pick this year, 28th overall. Setoguchi had just agreed to a three-year, US$9 million (Dh33m)-deal on Thursday.

The Chicago Blackhawks made two trades that seemed to be a continuation of their cost-cutting measures from last year, when they won the Stanley Cup.

They sent the right wing Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for the 26th overall draft selection. After the first round, Chicago traded the defenceman Brian Campbell to Florida for the forward Rostislav Olesz. Campbell, 32, had 19 goals and 38 assists over three seasons with the Blackhawks and was the third-highest paid player on the team last season at $7.14m.

Gabriel Landeskog, a left wing from Sweden, went second in the draft to the Colorado Avalanche. He had 36 goals in 53 games last season for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.

Jonathan Huberdeau, a centre from Quebec, was taken third by the Florida Panthers.

Huberdeau was the MVP of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.

Adam Larsson, a big defenceman from Sweden, was selected fourth by the New Jersey Devils. He played two full seasons for Skelleftea and was the third blue-liner to make his debut in the Swedish Elite League at age 16.

The New York Islanders chose the centre Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs.

After Ottawa took Zibanejad, Winnipeg chose the centre Mark Schiefele with the seventh selection.

The Philadelphia Flyers, using the eighth pick they obtained in one of Thursday's stunning trades, the one that sent their leading scorer Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets, took the centre Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs at No 8.

The defenceman Dougie Hamilton was drafted ninth by the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

The son of an Olympic rower and basketball player, Hamilton had 58 points in 67 games last season for Niagara in the OHL.

The Wild closed out the top 10 by selecting the defenceman Jonas Brodin, the fourth Swede in the draft.

Six Swedes were taken in the first round, matching the totals from 1993 and 2009. "It's really cool," Brodin said. "I know those guys. They're really good guys. It's very good for Sweden."