Luca Cereda: Time to Turn the Corner

By pbadmin
Imagine you are 17 years old again. You are the first-round draft choice of one of the most storied franchises in all of professional
hockey. You have just been named rookie-of-the-year for the championship club in your league. You are being told right and left, that you have
immense talent and are a “can’t-miss” prospect. When you are 17, all of this “stuff” might just go to your head a bit and affect you in a way
which may be detrimental to your vivacity.

Two things can then happen. When times suddenly turn for the worse, you can look to blame everyone else and develop that
“chip-on-your-shoulder”, continuing to think you know it all.

Or, you can do what Luca Cereda did and do everything possible to turn your game back around.

Yes, it has been well-documented that Cereda had a difficult season last year with his Ambri-Piotta team. “I played more of a defensive role last
year, and obviously, things didn’t go very well. However, I have gotten stronger and a bit bigger. I’m looking to improve my play and get the
game experience which I need”
, states Cereda.

You can look into his eyes and you see the seriousness in this talented young man. He is not taking anything for granted and when you watch
him on the ice, you can see the determination which should help to get his game and his career back on track.

During the Maple Leafs rookie tournament, Cereda centered the team’s most productive line, flanked by likely Ottawa 67 teammates, Lance
Galbraith and Miguel Delisle. As many of the great pivotmen do, Cereda was particularly effective with his playmaking abilities behind the
opponent’s net. Time and time again, he came up with the loose puck on the forecheck, shielded the rubber from the defenseman, and made a nice
centering feed out front to a teammate for a scoring chance.

“I see myself as more of a playmaking forward, rather than a big scorer, but I will get my chances also”, says Cereda.

Linemate Galbraith led the entire tournament with 4 goals, while Cereda notched a goal and 5 assists for 6 pts. in the 3 games.

The goal which Cereda scored exhibited some of the “savvy” the young man has in the offensive zone. He received a beautiful cross-ice pass
from Delisle just to the left of the goaltender against the Buffalo Sabres’ prospects. Instead of quickly releasing the puck, he recognized the space
that he had and deked the netminder out of position first, before easily depositing the puck in the net.

Watching Luca’s game during the Leafs’ prospect tournament reminds one of the good things that Toronto scouts saw in him before making him
their first round draft choice in the 1999 NHL entry draft with the 24th overall selection.

You expected to see a good, playmaking forward, but what was most surprising was the grit and physical play that was obvious as well. Granted,
a Tie Domi or Shayne Corson he is not, but he battled hard and strong along the wall in both ends of the rink for puck possession. His defensive
coverage was more than adequate as well, as he consistently hustled on the backcheck.

His work in Kitchener impressed the Maple Leafs’ brass as well. “Luca had a tough year last year in the Swiss league. He could never really get
his game untracked. He was very impressive throughout this tournament, displaying the abilities we knew he had”
, reflected Thommie
Bergman, Toronto’s head European scout.

Cereda has continued his good work at Toronto’s main training camp. Playing in his first-ever NHL preseason game with the Maple Leafs, he
scored a goal in a 4-3 overtime win over Edmonton.

Four games, particularly four played against less-than-stellar NHL competition, do not certainly make a career, but Cereda seems to be back on
track.

The Maple Leafs felt it was important to bring Cereda over to North America and Luca agreed. “My goal is to definitely play in the NHL. I
needed to make the adjustment to North American hockey sooner or later and I chose sooner”
, he explains. “I will most likely play this year in
Ottawa with the 67’s as I really just need to get the experience of playing this style of hockey”
, he adds.

Despite the fact that he has not looked out of place with the Maple Leafs, he has just turned 19 years of age. There is no reason that Toronto,
with the veteran squad that they have assembled, should rush him into a situation in which he is not fully ready.

The current Leafs’ management team seems to have learned from previous mistakes made by former regimes which rushed players like Al Iafrate
to the big-time before they were fully prepared.

A year at the major-junior level, under the tutelage of one of hockey’s best teachers in Brian Kilrea, should be just what the doctor ordered to
fully get Cereda’s game, and confidence, back on track. “If I play in Ottawa, I don’t expect to be a 100-pt. scorer. I just want to help the team to
be better and improve my skills as well”
, states the thoughtful Cereda.

The nice thing about the upcoming decision on where Luca plays this year: He is making it difficult for the team to decide just how high he can
fly.

Timothy Hennie is the editor and writer of “The Blue and White Report”, which is a magazine which previews the 2000-2001 Toronto Maple
Leafs. To obtain more information on The Blue and White Report or to order the magazine, log-on at http://www.blueandwhitereport.com or
call 1-888-633-5703 from 8am to 5pm eastern time.