June 21, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cody Ceci answers a reporter's question during the top prospects press conference in preparation for the 2012 NHL Draft on board the Gateway Clipper Fleet. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Weight: 203 lbs.
Hometown: Orleans, Ontario.
With the Draft now just one day away, I'm winding down my preview of potential Flames first-round picks with a look at Ottawa 67's defender Cody Ceci, one of the top-ranked North American defenders in this year's Draft.
Ceci, who turns 19 this coming December, scored nearly a point per game with Ottawa in 2011-12, accumulating 17 goals and 60 points in 64 games, and he added 15 points in 18 playoff games on top of that. Two of his regular season goals came with the 67's down a man while eight came on the poweplay, as did 14 of his helpers.
Akin to Olli Määttä, Ceci is considered to be one of the most well-rounded defenceman that could be available mid-round, and certainly appears to have more of an offensive upside, which he has demonstrated repeatedly over the course of his past three seasons in the OHL.
From The Prospects Blog:
Ceci’s biggest asset is fairly obvious to those who see him in person. He is one of the best offensive defenceman in the Ontario Hockey League. He is at his best skating the puck up the ice, gaining the blue line and assessing the play. He either takes the puck to the net, or makes a skilled play at the blueline. He shows strong composure at the blueline on the powerplay, and distributes the puck with intelligence and poise. He has a hard, accurate shot that is always low and on net, and although he may not score with it, he always generates rebounds or tip ins. His mobility and agility has really improved over the course of he season....He is also quite effective in puck battles down low in his own zone. He is strong at pinning opposition forwards out of the play, and using his body to leverage other players out of away from pucks...what interests and excites me about Ceci his progression. If he improved this much in one year, imagine how good he could be in three to four.
Like Määttä, Ceci is a strong defender whose mobility and skating has improved, although that is probably to be expected of him considering, as mentioned above, that 2011-12 was Ceci's third full year in the OHL and he is already 18 and 1/2 years of age.
Drafting older/more mature players seems to be a bit of a double-edged sword--one the one hand, you're getting a player who is further along in his development and may not take as long to make the jump to the next level as some of his younger counterparts, but on the other hand, playing against less experienced, less developed players and easier competition could be padding an older player's stats. As someone with a hand in drafting and development, you would need to make what is essentially an educated guess about which direction to lean in.
NHL Mock Draft fleshes out some of these concerns in more detail:
Even with his improvement to-date many scouts worry about his fit at the next level. Some see his playmaking and puck-moving capabilities as merely good enough for the OHL level of play while not being satisfactory at a professional level. Some put forth similar arguments regarding his attacking zone performances – in particular that he doesn’t have the skill to QB a powerplay in the NHL.
Furthermore, many recognize that Ceci isn’t an overtly physical player despite his impressive dimensions and point to his production this season as a product of his increased development time (as it is his third season in the "O") inferring he might be close to his peak potential upside.
Additionally, there have been some criticisms of Ceci's defensive game (more from The Prospects Blog), but not harsh enough to dissuade a team from taking a chance on him in the first round:
At times he can cheat offensively in his own zone, leaving his man alone and opening up gaps in the defensive zone coverage. He also can make poor decisions away from the puck at the opposition blue line. He can make poor decisions as to when to pinch, and gives up an odd man chance against. All of his issues to this point are easily fixable at the next level, and I would not really worry to much about his ability to improve...
Ceci's offensive upside and his mobility is undoubtedly what could sway a few GMs tomorrow as the first ten or so names get read at the podium in Pittsburgh. Ceci is described by McKeen's (via the Globe & Mail) as possessing "all the tools that NHL teams covet in defencemen," and that "it wasn't uncommon for him to play more than 30 minutes a game."
Like Määttä, Ceci is not an overly physical defender despite his size, but his two-dimensional game, the fact that he is willing and able to take chances offensively, and the fact that he does the little things that a defenceman should do and does them well might make him a good fit on the Flames' blueline. Plus, he also has a pretty cool name.