In two of most recent articles for ESPN Insider (warning: behind a pay-wall), Corey Pronman briefly described: 1) a number NHL prospects who have seen their stock diminish over the course of the 2012/13 season; and 2) conversely, a number of NHL prospects who have seen their stock improve.
His list of prospects having down seasons is littered with names like Matthew Dumba, Radek Faksa, Stanislav Galiev, Joe Morrow and Ottawa Senators defensive prospect, Cody Ceci.
Ceci was actually named an OHL second-team All-Star and ranked second among OHL defensemen in scoring. Even with that in mind, scouts I talked to came away with mixed feelings about Ceci's play this season. While his offensive ability is not at all in question, his play at the other end of the rink left some concerns. "His defense looked very average, if not bad," one scout said.
Cody Ceci may not have had the campaign that many had expected in the wake of being selected fifteenth overall by the Senators in the first round, but if we add some context to his season, he played for a horrendously awful Ottawa 67s squad that eventually wound up bottoming out in the OHL standings.
Now not all his shortcomings last season can be directly attributable to playing for a bad team, but you have to wonder how much this caused him to try and force the play and ‘do too much’. As Scott showed, while Ceci' s total offensive production was stable, he produced much less at even-strength. Throw in the complications of playing within the same NHL hockey market that drafted him, as well as the increased level of interest in Ceci’s play because of the lockout, and you have two readymade excuses to help explain some of his struggles.
Physicality and the ability to contain players at the higher level was something that Ceci was always going to have to work at. These defensive struggles are something that Pronman also alluded to within his write-up:
The defensive-end struggles were more evident during the first half of the OHL season, which may not have coincidentally led to a lack of an invite to Canada's world juniors camp in his last season of U-20 eligibility. After being dealt from Ottawa to Owen Sound, Ceci's play picked up in the 27 games he played with Owen. He's a dynamic skater who moves the puck well, with a good shot. As he enters his first pro season, it will be interesting to monitor how Ottawa's staff works with him on his defensive issues.
Although it’s never fun to be mentioned within the same list as a guy like Louis Leblanc, things are far from looking bleak for Cody Ceci. One disappointing season does not make or a break a career, just ask Robin Lehner – a player who finds himself on Pronman’s list of prospects whose stock improved immensely.
For years Lehner has been touted as a gifted goaltender but had yet to put it all together in a full season in North America. It all came together during the 2012-13 campaign. Lehner has been a brick wall in the AHL and during brief appearances in the NHL. He's a big (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) goaltender with the athletic tools of an agile goalie half his size. He recovers quickly, generates a lot of power from his feet and shows good puck-tracking skills. Some small nitpicks with Lehner may be he's not perfectly refined yet and could learn to be a little more technical. But when you're stopping 93-94 percent of shots faced, it doesn't seem to be that much of an issue.
No mention of his swagger, confidence or the maturity issues that he has had to deal with in years past?
Much has been made over what Ottawa gave up to get Ben Bishop and what was subsequently acquired from Tampa when Bishop was dealt for Cory Conacher and a fourth round pick. While it remains to be seen what Conacher or Bishop will amount to in the NHL, you simply could not place a price on the proverbial boot in the ass delivered to Lehner by the organization.
No longer considered the outright successor to Craig Anderson’s position, the internal competition created by Bishop’s acquisition forced Lehner – and to Lehner’s credit, he put in the work – to re-evaluate his work habits and lifestyle choices to become the pro that we’re starting to see now.
When he arrived to the team’s development camp last June, he showed up in tip top shape while saying all the right things to the media.
"He's very calm, very prepared, he's lost weight, he's leaner, quicker, (he has) better agility," said Randy Lee, the team's director of player development. "(There's a) real big improvement. He's really taken it seriously." ~ Slam Sports, June 26th, 2012
Lehner also recognized that being the backup goaltender doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re next in the pecking order - getting into games and seeing lots of rubber is intrinsic value for his development as a pro.
More Prospect News and Notes:
In something that really does not necessitate creating a post of its own, Jordan Fransoo, the Senators’ seventh round draft choice (186th overall) in 2011, was not signed by the organization before yesterday’s deadline to sign 2011 draft selections – effectually making the defenceman an unrestricted free agent.
In getting back to Pronman for a moment, over at Hockey Prospectus, he’s slowly revealing the individual player write ups as part of his Top 100 Prospects for 2013 series. I highly recommend checking it out as some weekend reading material.