It's early in the NHL season and aside from Jets, Islanders and Blue Jackets fans, I can't imagine too many people have become overly concerned about the entry draft yet. Of course that will change as the season develops and we might as well get started now.
Every couple of weeks I'm going to highlight players/teams that are likely to make a splash at the draft with a tendency to focus on the Western Hockey League (geographically convenient for me.)
Rather than starting in the West, I'm going to begin by singing the praises of a player that caught my eye over the summer at the Canadian World Junior Development Camp, the 6'3, 210lb defenseman Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67s.
Ceci was one of two undrafted 17 year olds to attend Canada's camp (the other was Ryan Murray) and he appeared to have no difficulty keeping up with the likes of players who have already landed positions in the NHL. He deserved to be held in the same regard as Gudbranson, and Gormley and played the role of the big bodied, hard hitting defender well throughout the Red and White game. While my eyes were drawn more to Team White since that's where the Leafs prospects were playing, Ceci was a Team Red player who was very noticeable no matter where your attention was focused.
Since his defensive defenseman days of his previous season Cody has adapted to more of a two-way game. In the first sixteen games of the 2011-12 season Ceci has kept up a point a game pace including five goals. Ceci already has over half his goal and point totals of last season including a three assist night in his last outing.
What may be most impressive is that despite his physical play Ceci has very few penalties, just three this season, and only 23 in his 148 OHL games. Cody brings the kind of stability that most NHL teams will be coveting come draft day and his stock seems to be rising making him an almost surefire first rounder. It is also increasing likely that Ceci could be playing his way on the Canadian World Junior Team, and has already been selected for Team OHL in the Subway Super Series.
Presently he has been ranked accordingly by draft experts:
The Scouting Report: 24th
Bob MacKenzie: Honourable Mention to the Top 10
Craig Button: 20th
ISS Hockey: 20th
Future Considerations: 10th
From The Scouting Report:
"Ceci's sophomore season in the OHL was promising as the Ottawa native took the steps forward that most were expecting after his rookie season. Already playing with pro size, Ceci entrenched himself as one of the better defensive defensemen in the OHL last season with very responsible play while logging heavy minutes. His physical play took a step forward last season and it was noticeable that he was much improved in handling defensive zone coverage and preventing himself from over-committing. Has some offensive upside and serves as an effective PP quarterback at the OHL level. Ceci projects to be a potential late first-round pick or early second-round pick as a player who has the potential to be a dependable NHL defenseman who might not have quite as much high-end upside as some of the other players available in the range."
Cody Ceci will be a player that great improves the depth of an NHL blueline in the future, and seems to have a bright future ahead of him. A big hitter with solid speed there is little doubt that he could have been a top ten pick in this year's draft and already having the size he could potentially be ready to jump straight to the NHL next season, although it's way too early to say. With injuries to fellow Team Canada defense hopefuls Stuart Percy, and Nathan Beaulieu, along with Erik Gudbranson making the Panthers it is likely we'll all get a good look at Ceci during the World Juniors. I don't think many people will be disappointed with what they see.
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