2012 Prospects: Cody Ceci exudes poise and maturity both on and off the ice

By Chris Roberts
Photo:Playing for the Ottawa 67s, Cody Ceci is among the top draft-eligible defensemen for 2012. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Moving away from home and leaving your parents for the first time can be a daunting ordeal, especially if you’re like Cody Ceci, who was just 13-years-old when he left his hometown of Orléans, Ontario to attend Lakefield College, a private boarding school just north of Peterborough. At such a young age, the thought alone could be traumatizing; but for Ceci, the decision highlights his dedication and commitment to improve at the game he loves.

“I got to play with some buddies there at the school and as well as play in Peterborough against some of the greater talent in Toronto, so that was just a fun time for me and a good couple years,” he states.

In fact, his decision to uproot and go to Lakefield College on his own was so out of the ordinary for a 13-year-old that Hockey Canada deemed him ineligible to play with the major bantam AAA Peterborough Petes due to Article F.3 of their Articles, Bylaws and Regulations, which states that a minor must live and play minor hockey in the same area that his parents live. He was ineligible to play the first two months of the 2007-08 season, but was later reinstated by Hockey Canada.

But it wouldn’t be long before he was able to play in the same area his parents lived; after two years at Lakefield, Ceci was drafted 16th overall by the Ottawa 67s in the 2009 OHL priority selection draft.

“I was really excited just because I was away for those past two years so I just wanted to come home by then,” says Ceci. “I got to come back and see all my old friends and sleep in my own bed again.”

Though he was elated to be coming back to live in the town he grew up in – Orléans is a considered a suburban district of Ottawa – he quickly realized the pressure of playing in his hometown.

“I had a lot of buddies that came out to the games,” he says, noting the pressure that comes from trying to impress friends he hadn’t seen in quite some time. Also, instead of going to school with his teammates, he chose to attend high-school with the friends he grew up with in Orléans, where he began to notice the extra attention that comes with playing in one’s hometown.

And while his rookie season was a struggle at times, Ceci put up respectable numbers for a first-year defenseman, scoring four goals and adding eight assists. His second season, 2010-11, was much more productive, but it is only this year, with the benefit of an extra year of development before his draft-year eligibility, that he’s been looking like a bona fide first-round selection.

At 6’2, having just turned 18-years-old in December, and currently tipping the scales at over 200lbs, Ceci looks more than comfortable logging top minutes on the 67s back-end. In 47 games, he’s registered 47 points, and already has a career-high 11 goals, something he attributes to increased confidence with the puck and a lot of power-skating sessions in the summer.

“I think it’s just a combination of that and being in the league for three years now,” he explains. “I’ve had a lot of opportunity over the past few years so it’s helped me develop as a player.”

And after those few years he’s developed into a mobile defenseman with size and dynamic skating ability; not to mention, he has huge offensive upside. He exudes poise and is more than calm with the puck on his stick. The 18-year-old can also quarterback a power-play. Certainly, it isn’t hard to see why scouts are enamoured with Ceci; he was ranked 11th by the ISS and 16th (North American skaters) by Central Scouting.

People have been talking about Ceci and the upcoming draft, and he’s been following.

“It’s not something I constantly check but I’ll see updates every now and then on Twitter and stuff… if I see my name pop up I’ll read it.”

That said, he doesn’t go out of his way to read what scouts are saying; nor does he put much into their projections.

“It’s my draft year,” he mentions. “I just got to go out there and have fun and hope the scouts see what they like.”

He is weary of what they have been saying in regard to his game, however. And while there isn’t much left to be desired about his play on the ice, his lack of physicality is something scouts often dwell on.

“I often hear [scouts] want to see me to play more physical,” says Ceci, which is not surprising given his size. There’s no questioning that, if he wanted to, he could be a dominating physical presence, and if he wants to make a splash in the NHL, he’ll need to work on that aspect of his game.

“I just need to use my size to my advantage and have good body position as well as finish that big hit every once in awhile.”

Perhaps it was his lack of finishing that big hit that had him left off the Canadian World Junior team in December, or it could have been that Don Hay and staff didn’t want to take more than one undrafted defenseman – as it turned out, Ryan Murray made the cut.

“I thought I gave myself a great opportunity to make the team. Unfortunately they just didn’t need me – I guess – this year.” Though he was disappointed about not making the cut, he mentions soaking up the experience of attending camp, and realizes it’ll only improve his chances of making the team next year.

Currently, the 67s are tied for third in the OHL and Ceci has been scoring at a point-per-game pace and continually dealing with the pressures of the upcoming NHL draft, yet he does find time to lead a pretty average life away from the rink. When he’s not on the ice, he says he can be either found napping, reading, and of course, gaming.

His favorite game, not surprisingly, is NHL 12. While he agrees that it’s “pretty cool” that he’s actually in the game on the 67s roster, he often sticks to playing with NHL teams like the Detroit Red Wings, where his favorite defenseman Niklas Lidstrom has been playing for the past two decades.

Ceci is enamoured with the multiple Norris winner’s calmness on the point, as well as impressed both by his offensive and defensive capabilities, especially given the fact the Swede is going on 42-years-old.

“I like the way he plays and I’d like to be like him one day,” says Ceci.

Wishful thinking, sure; but for a kid that left home at just 13 to play the game he loves at a higher level, commitment in achieving that goal won’t be an issue.