While the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game will introduce local hockey fans to a number of the top prospects from around the country, it will also be a homecoming for one defenseman.
Joseph Cecconi is the lone skater of the 42 invited to participate who hails from the Western New York region. Growing up in Youngstown, N.Y., Cecconi’s hockey career began on the travel level with a number of teams from around the area, including the Niagara University Jr. Eagles, Wheatfield Blades and Buffalo Regals.
CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS FOR THE GAME
From there, Cecconi joined the Buffalo Jr. Sabres organization for the 2012-13 season, playing 40 games with the U-16 team and four with the U-18 team. After accumulating 10 goals and nine assists in 34 games with the U-16 team the following season, Cecconi left the Jr. Sabres for the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks. (Cecconi was originally drafted by the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers in 2013, but his rights were acquired by Muskegon in a trade last December that saw highly-touted Sabres prospect Connor Hurley sent to Green Bay.)
The decision to move more than 400 miles from Youngstown to Muskegon, Mich., presented a set of challenges for Cecconi, but the competition on the ice has escalated his development.
“The skill level in the USHL is very tough,” explained Cecconi, who also played for the victorious Buffalo Junior/Prep team in the 2014 Scotty Bowman Showcase at First Niagara Center. “All the lines are pretty much equal, so you don’t have just one line tearing it up. I think that helps my progression as a player and as a person.”
Cecconi, 17, will not be moving far from Muskegon when he starts playing college hockey in 2015. After looking at Miami of Ohio and North Dakota, Cecconi committed to play at the University of Michigan. After seeing all that Ann Arbor had to offer, it was a fairly simple decision for Cecconi.
“The coaching staff has an unbelievable track record at Michigan,” he said. “The academics are also very good, so I think my parents are happy about that. I really liked the campus and the history it has.”
Standing 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Cecconi is a self-proclaimed “true defenseman” who likes to stay at home, secure the defensive zone and make clean outlet passes to his forward teammates. When he returns to Buffalo to skate at First Niagara Center on September 25, Cecconi will have a chance to show off the skills that he has honed playing hockey in Western New York and beyond.
With all the offensive talent that will be on display, Cecconi is sure to have ample opportunities to prove his worth on the defensive end. The biggest thing that will be on Cecconi’s mind that night will be keeping a level head despite the magnitude of the event.
“I just want to play my game and keep it simple,” Cecconi explained. “I’m not going to try and do anything that I’m not used to doing just to impress scouts. My family and friends will be there. I’m just going to play my game and play hard.”
Despite spending a great deal of time outside the area, Cecconi is familiar with the developments taking place along Buffalo’s waterfront. He even had the opportunity this summer to skate with the HARBORCENTER’s Academy of Hockey staff at First Niagara Center.
Since the All-American Prospects Game will likely be his last chance to return home before the holidays, Cecconi can’t wait for the opportunity to play in front of those who supported him in his early days. Cecconi hopes that support will continue to help him find success on his journey up the hockey ladder.