Given the small number of players invited to the Ottawa Senators' lockout-shortened training camp this year, I--along with undoubtedly a few other Sens fans--was surprised to see Cody Ceci's name among the invitees. Not to take anything away from Ceci's statistically impressive season on a depressingly bad team, but it seemed like there was little to no chance he's got a shot even considering the Sens' decimated blue line.
But Assistant GM Tim Murray's comments on the situation, via The 6th Sens, sure made a lot of sense:
"I think what we want to do here with Cody is reset him, reset his season. This certainly is no disreprect to the 67's, they've had a tough year...he's part of it. He's gonna move on now to a better team, obviosuly [sic] when you get traded from a low team to a higher team. He's gonna be counted on there heavily, and he's gotta be ready for that. And I think by coming in here, and getting a little bit of coaching from our guys on what we expect in the second half from him - it's a different situation so expectations are different. Put a lot of the onus on him to step up his game, and I think by starting him here with good players here it gives him a chance to just walk in there and you know have no issues on changing teams."
Reading that nugget of insight instils a heck of a lot of confidence in the Senators' player-development system as well as Ceci's chances to become a good pro in the near future. It will also help off-set the disappointment that surely came from being left off the Canadian World Juniors team.
First of all, Ceci's got a chance--even if small--to make the team. That's got to have him amped up and ready to go, and seeing a light at the end of the tunnel should be a welcome change to his outlook compared to the first part of the season, where he must have been playing out the circuit and hoping to get traded. The short training-camp tryout will be like an injection to get his competitive juices flowing again.
It seems like a safe assumption that he'll head back to the OHL, though. But he'll be playing the rest of the season with the playoff-bound Owen Sound Attack, the Western Conference's third-place team. Ceci will immediately step in as their top defenceman and powerplay quarterback, and he'll have some pretty lofty expectations; a mid-season stop among NHL players should re-charge him for the remainder of the OHL season and the playoffs. And since Owen Sound's biggest problem this season seems to be scoring goals, Ceci will provide a very important boost to their offence. Playing such an important role will be fun for him this season, but should be very good for his development moving forward--especially compared to the alternative of jumping straight from the 67s to the Attack.
Ceci's started his Owen Sound career off right, with an assist in his first game (albeit in a losing effort). A quick mid-season intermission for some NHL-level hockey should only improve that, setting him up for an even more impressive back-end to the season.