This past season, most of us haven't been too pleased with the Ottawa Senators defense corps, with fairly justifiable reason. However, a light has peaked its way through the grey clouds in the form of a 20-year-old defenseman named Cody Ceci.
Ceci was called-up on an emergency basis and played his first NHL game on December 12, 2013 in relief of the suspended Jared Cowen. He stepped into the line-up on that fateful night and scored the overtime winner a few days later against the St. Louis Blues. Shortly thereafter, the Senators management told Ceci he would remain with the big club for the remainder of the season. Over 46 games, Ceci has picked up 8 points (3G, 5A) and averages about 17 minutes a game.
This year was a tough one for Ceci to be thrown into, especially since he hadn't even finished a full season with the Binghamton Senators yet, but he took the season in stride. Yes, he has had ups and downs and perhaps wasn't the most noticeable defensemen on the team, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. When you consider that Ceci only turned 20 in December, he did a nice job coming in as a rookie and working hard.
What I like about Ceci is how well-rounded he is as a defenseman because he has both defensive and offensive skill. He's also a nice skater with a good shot and seems to be pretty smart on the ice. As a member of the Senators this season, Ceci played a bit more of a defensive game instead of flashing offense. From conversations that I've had, some fans were expecting more offense from Ceci. I supposed the reasoning is that in his last two seasons in the OHL, Ceci was basically a point per game player, so he obviously has offensive talent. This year, I suspect he was trying to find his game and where he fit in the NHL. In the future and with more development (defensemen typically take longer to develop than forwards do), I can see Ceci developing both his defensive and offensive talents to become at least a top-four two-way defenseman, which is what he was projected as when he was drafted. In fact, the year he was drafted, the Hockey Writers compared him to players like Brent Seabrook and Keith Yandle - which I could see as well, though more Yandle than Seabrook.
Ceci does have some work to do - not surprising for a young player. Ceci is a big boy standing 6'3 and weighing 210 lbs, but he often doesn't use his size to his full potential. I noticed, for example, he tries to use his stick quite a bit on the boards instead of pinching guys off or pinning them. With time, however, Ceci will develop his physical game with some more strength training and maturity.
Altogether, I feel that Ceci has the potential to become a very good player in the league and I'm quite excited to see him develop over the next few years. For those who are skeptical, remember that when Erik Karlsson came into the league, he was green and needed to improve a lot as well, now look at him. I'm not saying that Ceci will became the next defensive superstar - that's too hard to predict at this point - but I certainly see him becoming one of our core players when he's older.