February 01, 2012

2012 NHL Draft Preview: Cody Ceci

by Alex Quevillon

When Brian Kilrea left the Ottawa 67’s as Head Coach and General Manager, he left behind an OHL legacy. Two Memorial Cups, three Ontario League championships, only three years without a playoff berth and 1193 wins top off the former coach’s time here in Ottawa. One of the biggest reasons for his success was patience with youth. As is evident by this season’s squad being tops in the Eastern Conference, Killer’s presence is still being felt.

During Kilrea’s time, Ottawa rarely made blockbuster deals as buyers or as sellers. Sure, he made subtle moves, like dealing for Jake Cardwell, Shayne Campbell and Julian Luciani last season. But he wouldn’t try to hit home runs, for guys such as Alex Pietrangelo or John Tavares. Instead, he did everything to keep his youth, help them grow as people and as players, and make them feel like Ottawa was their home.

For one defenceman, it’s clearly paid off. While it wasn’t necessary to make Ottawa feel like home for this young blueliner, it was Kilrea’s decision to hold onto him that has helped make this year’s team so strong. Even though he just recently turned 18, Orleans-born Cody Ceci may be Ottawa’s best defenceman as they make a pitch for a deep playoff run.

While Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara Ice Dogs, the ninth overall choice in last year’s NHL Draft, gets all the attention as the OHL’s top defenceman at both ends of the ice, Ceci is second in point as a defenceman, only three points behind the Bruins pick. He’s also the youngest defenceman in the top-five for scorers on the back end.

Ceci may have started as a hesitant, solid defencive defenceman, but he’s moved into a role this season that sees him jumping up in the play more often than not. Paired with Captain Marc-Anthony Zanetti for the second year, the expected first round pick in the upcoming NHL draft came back this season having put on over 20 pounds. His 6’2 frame had been filled out somewhat, and it’s a scary thought that he may still get bigger.

But unlike most defencemen with that sort of size, Ceci’s game isn’t overly physical. He has the ability to lay out opposing forwards, as Sudbury’s Brody Silk can attest to after last year’s playoffs. Instead, it’s the offensive talent that makes him so impressive. In the pre-season, you could’ve mistaken him for a forward the number of times he would carry the puck, using his speed to break down the other team’s defence as opposed to playing the puck ahead.

To go along with the added size, the third-year 67's is showing off an absolute rocket of a shot from the point, an attribute that hasn’t been seen as much in his first two years but has helped Ceci pitch in with 11 goals, going along with 36 assists.

At the NHL level, fans in Ottawa don’t have to look far for comparable professionals. Two of the Senators’ divisional rivals boast rearguards who play a very similar game to Ceci. The 18-year old has a skating style that is identical to that of Toronto’s Luke Schenn, while his overall game is very similar, albeit more offencive-minded, to that of Buffalo’s Robyn Regehr.

Regehr was drafted 19th overall in 1998, while Schenn was taken fifth overall in 2008. It’s entirely possible that Ceci goes in between those two spots. On January 16th, he was listed #11 for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by International Scouting Service.

A late-December birthday may help him become the highest drafted 67 since Logan Couture was taken ninth overall in 2007. The following year, Tyler Cuma was also a first-round pick, going 23rd to Minnesota.

If sent back to Junior after being drafted, as Cuma and Couture were, Ceci should be a near-lock to wear red and white during the 2012-2013 holiday season (an honour that neither 67's alumni received). After being one of the late cuts from this year’s Canadian under-20 squad, it’s clear that he is very high on Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson’s radar.

Hockey Canada can’t be the only organization that has Ceci on its radar. Many general managers and scouts would agree that at the NHL level, teams draft for depth and skill, not necessarily for the best fit. But in the first round, the book is out on most of these teens and the way that they play, and when a team is looking to add a key piece, some of them will want to stock up at one position. Here are some ideal places that Cody Ceci could head on draft day.

Montréal – The Habs may look bleak right now, but imagine a future defence featuring Nathan Beaulieu, P.K. Subban, Jared Tinordi and Ceci. Big, young, talented and just plain scary.

Ottawa – He was born in Orleans and played Major Junior in Ottawa, so the transition would be easier than anywhere else. Ceci is harder on the puck than David Rundblad, who the Senators parted ways with in the trade for Kyle Turris, and also possesses a lot of the same skill that they lost in the Swedish defenceman.

Edmonton – The Oilers have drafted forwards with their last seven first-round picks. Guys like Corey Potter and Theo Peckham have been impressive, but they’re going to need a few high-level defencemen at some point.

Minnesota – The Wild have faltered a bit after their strong start, and are definitely missing former Brampton Battalion Brent Burns on the back end. With his seeing-eye slapshot from the point and mobile style of defence, Ceci could be a perfect replacement for Burns.

AnaheimCam Fowler can’t do it all on the back end. Ceci’s play would complement the former Windsor Spitfires star while adding to the Ducks already deadly powerplay. Same story as Minnesota and Edmonton, they will all have elite top lines up front next year, the back end is a concern.

NOTE: While this piece was being put together, Ceci was believed to have pinched a nerve in his back going into the boards with Jay Gilbert of the Owen Sound Attack. He will miss the prospects game at the end of the month. We wish him a speedy recovery as he looks to finish up his draft year with a bang.

Cody Ceci
Unfortunately I will not be able to play in this years Top Prospects Game, due to an injury which occurred in today's game.

January 29, 10:34PM

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