No. 3: Cody Ceci (Reader rank: 3, Last year: 4)
Cody Ceci moves up a spot in our rankings, but don’t mistake that for progress — Mika Zibanejad and Patrick Wiercioch, both ranked ahead of him last year, are gone from the team. Rather, Ceci has kind of stagnated. The Senators needed Ceci to impress last year if the team was going to take a step forward, and he gave the team a whole lot of... mediocre?
2014-15 ended up off really well. The Wiercioch-Ceci pairing solidified the Sens’ top four. 2015-16 started off disastrously, with Ceci and Wiercioch both struggling early. This led to Wiercioch being benched and eventually ditched by the team. The Sens acquired Dion Phaneuf in February to mentor Ceci, and at least Ceci’s terrible shot metrics improved to just-below-average. The hope is that a whole season of Phaneuf and Ceci will allow the two to get comfortable together. The nagging worry is that just a year ago, we were saying the same thing about Ceci with Wiercioch.
Ceci has managed to increase his point totals every year: 9 points in 49 games in his first season, 21 in 81 last year, and 26 in 75 this most recent season. That put him 58th in scoring by a defenceman last year, between notables such as Erik Johnson and Johnny Boychuk. That’s no slouch. He turned it into an invite to play for Team Canada at the World Championships, putting up six points in 10 games en route to the gold medal.
The problem with Ceci, as keeps being discussed in the comments here, is not on his offensive game. There are worries with his defensive game. He seems to struggle with gap control, which could be a coaching issue (no one would argue the Sens were well-coached last year) or could be a confidence issue. For a guy who’s 6’3” and over 200 lbs, he really seems to struggle containing bodies in front of the net.
The hope is that Guy Boucher will introduce structure, and that will help coach guys like Ceci. It feels like we’ve been waiting forever for Ceci to figure it all out at the NHL level, so it’s important to note that he’s just finished his three-year ELC, and that he’s only 22. He’s on a bridge deal, which was the right call, and the Sens have a couple years to figure out what they have in their young defender. I’m hopeful he can figure it out, and become the second-pairing guy the Sens need. If he doesn’t, and stays as an offensive defenceman who’s a defensive liability, the mid-term outlook for the Sens isn’t great.