Signing an entry-level contract for an NHL team is something every hockey player dreams about.
, the Islanders fourth round draft pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, reached that dream, as he signed his entry-level contract on May 31. Participating in his third Isles Mini-Camp, he couldn’t be more thrilled about it.
“That was probably one of the most exciting days of my life,” Cizikas said. “Everything worked out and it was definitely something I’ve worked towards my whole life. To get to start my pro career now is exciting.”
|Casey Cizikas skating at Nassau Coliseum during an on-ice session of Islanders Mini-Camp on Wednesday, July 13, 2011. |
Accomplishing that first step didn’t come without hard work. The 6’0”, 185 pound forward had his best junior season to date, both in the team column and personally, with the Mississagua St. Michael’s Majors (Ontario Hockey League) during the 2010-11 season.
During the regular season, Cizikas tallied career-highs in goals (29) and points (64) and added another 19 points during the postseason, helping the Majors to the OHL Finals where they lost to the Owen Sound Attack in Game 7. He pointed to his teammates for his own on-ice success.
“I tried to improve myself on the ice every single day by working my hardest,” he said. “Every shift out there counts. With the teammates I played with, (Justin) Shugg and (Devante) Smith-Pelly, they’re both great goal-scorers, so they helped me out a lot, too.”
Though his personal achievements were rewarding, Cizikas still had the disappointment of losing in the finals left in his mind.
You never want to lose in Game 7 of the finals, so it was a tough one. We worked so hard all year to get there. It was there for us to grab and we just couldn’t finish, but there’s nothing for us to be ashamed about. We made it that far and we broke a lot of team records, so we were very proud of ourselves. - Casey Cizikas
“You never want to lose in Game 7 of the finals, so it was a tough one,” Cizikas said. “We worked so hard all year to get there. It was there for us to grab and we just couldn’t finish, but there’s nothing for us to be ashamed about. We made it that far and we broke a lot of team records, so we were very proud of ourselves.”
Looking beyond the tough loss, the Toronto, ON native is ready to further both his skill level and physical presence, but also start his professional hockey career. Cizikas plans to jumpstart his career while attending this week’s mini-camp.
“I just have to make the most of it,” he said. “I have to go in and play my game and try my best. There are guys in there that are a lot bigger and a lot stronger than me, but that’s what summer is for – to get bigger and stronger. I have to take advantage of that and get myself as ready as possible when September comes.”
Cizikas will see how he stacks up Saturday when he faces off against some of the organization’s top prospects, taking another step closer to his dream.