August 19, 2012

67's 2012-13 Season Preview Part 2: Defence

As mentioned in part one of the 67’s 2012-13 season preview, this team is in a rebuild mode and as a rebuilding team, should be building from the net out. Ottawa had trouble finding a young goaltender to start taking over the reins, but on the blueline, there doesn’t seem to be much difficulty building a strong, young core to add to the defenders they already have.

Cody Ceci is not only the key to the 67’s back end, he’s also the face of the franchise now. After being drafted 15th overall by the Ottawa Senators, the Orleans native is a major selling point as the team tries to market their product at the Senators’ home venue.

Ceci impressed at Senators’ development camp, stepping up his physical game and showing off his offensive flair, but it’s still widely believed that he will be returned to Junior. After finishing second in the OHL for scoring by defencemen, fans will be hoping that he can emerge as one of the league’s elite rearguards next season.

It’s also likely that the Senators top draft choice in 2012 will be named Captain, although if anyone can contest that, it’s Jake Cardwell. Cardwell spent most of the 2012-12 campaign on the second defensive pairing, but with Captain Marc-Anthony Zanetti’s injuries and suspensions late in the year, Ceci and Cardwell often found themselves forming the top duo on defence. Should Cardwell return to Ottawa for his overage year, expect these two to form Ottawa’s top unit.

Jonathan Duchesne is one of the more interesting pieces of the Barberpoles’ rebuild. The 39th overall pick in the OHL Draft impressed both staff and fans with his stellar showing at 67’s rookie camp. Head coach Chris Byrne has indicated that not only does Duchesne have a good chance at this year’s team; he could be a player that could play in all situations including special teams in the very near future.

Two question marks come when you consider Ryan Shipley and Taylor Fielding. Shipley missed a large portion of the past season with injury and spent some time in the last two seasons as a forward. Fielding was forced to play right wing and started to excel late in the year as a checking-line forward. There has been no indication thus far as to where the two will play this season.

Mike Vlajkov and Sean Callaghan showed a lot of promise last season as rookies, but both will have to log a lot of minutes and have a major impact this season if the 67’s are to have solid defensive depth.

Vlajkov came into the season with a fair amount of hype – fans knew that he would be a puck-mover, but not an overly physical presence. While he didn’t get a lot of ice time as a first-year on a contending 67’s team, he still registered seven points with a +13 rating. During the World Juniors, Vlajkov got a lot more ice time as he was the beneficiary of Michal Cajkovsky’s briefly leaving the team to represent his country.

The story of Callaghan’s rookie season may be the complete opposite of Vlajkov’s. An unknown heading into the 2011-12 season, Callaghan emerged as an aggressive, physical force. His impressive play in the pre-season and early regular season made him a mainstay on a 67’s team looking to boost their toughness. After registering five points, a +12 rating and 99 penalty minutes, he will be expected to play top-four minutes and also be Ottawa’s heavyweight fighter if Dalton Smith doesn’t return.

Aside from these five, it’s anyone’s guess as to who fills out the rest of the blueline. The defence isn’t as deep as it was last year, but if nothing else, Ottawa now has the ability to let their young defenders get ample ice time.

What we already know:
-Marc-Anthony Zanetti will not be returning as Captain. The 67’s lost him to age restrictions and he has signed with Düsseldorf of the German Elite League
-The 67’s lose Daniel Broussard to age restrictions. His plans for the 2012-13 season are currently unknown
-Michal Cajkovsky will not be returning to the 67’s as he has signed with the Kontinental Hockey League’s Slovan Bratislava
-The 67’s have signed and are hoping that at least one of Mathieu Desautels, Nevin Guy or Christian Zanetti (brother of Marc-Anthony) will step in and make an impact this season in the same way Callaghan did last year
-Mike Vlajkov and Sean Callaghan will need to be a solid duo not only 5-on-5, but Vlajkov will need to become a powerplay specialist and Callaghan a top penalty killer
-Assuming he returns, Cody Ceci will need to be the linchpin on the back end

What’s left to be answered:
-How will the 67’s handle their respective situations with Taylor Fielding and Ryan Shipley?
-Ceci and Jake Cardwell are penciled in as the top pairing. It’s a good guess that they will be back, but their return isn't a sure thing
-How reliable will the defence be with the assumption that two sophomores will play on the second pairing with one or two rookies on the third pairing?
-Will a veteran, possibly overager, be brought in by trade or waivers to shore up the defence and lead by example

For Part 1: Goaltending, Click Here
For Part 3: Forwards, Click Here

No comments: