By Dan Plouffe
Looking back on where he started with the Ottawa 67’s and where he is now, Ottawa native Cody Ceci couldn’t have scripted his evolution with the Ontario Hockey League club much better than the way it’s turned out.
When Ceci first joined the 67’s as a 15-year-old, it didn’t look as though he carried much star power. Playing on a solid defensive unit anchored by Julien Demers and Tyler Cuma, Ceci was a steady, unspectacular presence in Ottawa’s third defence pair.
“In his first year, he was passing the puck to the veterans all the time and wasn’t taking control of the game,” says 67’s coach and general manager Chris Byrne, who credits Ceci’s standout work ethic for the success he’s found since then. “He was always a good two-way defenceman, but I think part way through last year he got a little more confidence shooting the puck.”
Now 17 and in his third OHL season, there’s a noticeable shift in Ceci’s mentality – he’s now always looking for that chance to sneak in from the blue line and create scoring opportunities.
“In Minor Midget, I used to play more offensively,” recalls the former Cumberland minor hockey player who went away to boarding school in Peterborough for a few years before the 67’s drafted him. “The last couple years I’ve been trying to get more comfortable in the league, so I just try to bring my offensive game more as well as stay responsible in my own end.”
With eight points in his first five games, it definitely looked as though the formula was working well. Another good sign was earning honourable mention from TSN as a potential top-10 pick in next year’s NHL entry draft. While the end goal is simply to play as well as he possibly can, Ceci says he does pay some attention to the rankings.
“It’s a cool thing for me, and it’s also motivation to push myself to get up there,” explains the Orleans resident. “It’s everyone’s dream to play in the NHL, and this means that I’m that much closer to it.”
On top of the NHL scouts, Ceci knows there are often Team Canada eyes on him in advance of the world junior championships, which provides an added incentive to be on top of his game every night.
“I’ve always watched that tournament with my family, so to be able to play in it would be next-level for me, and it would mean a lot to my family as well,” notes Ceci, who attended the Canadian team’s summertime orientation camp. “We always find it to be the most exciting hockey because it’s so high-tempo – young guys who aren’t pros yet playing for their country. Everyone’s working hard to get noticed.
“To be able to get out there and wear the jersey for Canada would be a pretty cool thing.”
HOME SWEET HOME
Exciting possibilities like world juniors and NHL hockey could make it easy to lose sight of the present moment, but standing near centre ice during player intros on opening night gave Ceci a chance to reflect on all that’s changed for him in two-plus years with the 67’s, and also to savour one aspect that never gets old.
“It’s pretty neat for me because it is my hometown,” the 6’ 3”, 210 lb. defender emphasizes. “Going out there as the hometown kid, it was a pretty loud roar they gave me when I came out.”
Ceci plans to bring the local crowd to its feet plenty more this season – 15 goals and 50 points are personal targets he has in mind – although there is one other objective that would truly make it a dream season.
“The Mem Cup too obviously,” Ceci smiles. “That’s every kid’s dream as well. It would be pretty cool for us to bring that back to Ottawa. And we definitely have the guys to do it this year.”
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