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Local products an inspiration for Ottawa youngsters

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Corey Cowick grew up playing minor hockey in Ottawa before moving on to the major junior 67's and eventually being drafted by the Senators. It's a hockey path that many young players in the capital no doubt hope to emulate someday (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

Collectively, they stand as the mightiest of symbols to a city filled with hockey dreamers.

But for a trio of Ottawa Senators who also sported the colours of the capital's major junior team, it isn't just a fantasy anymore. They're living proof that dreams can indeed come true — and right in your own backyard.

When the Senators made defenceman Cody Ceci the 15th overall pick of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft over the weekend, it added to a contingent of 67's in the organization that previously included centre Shane Prince (second round, 2011) and forward Corey Cowick (sixth round, 2009). All three are together at Senators development camp this week.

That Ceci and Cowick both happen to be products of minor hockey programs in the east end of the city has surely been duly noted by many parents, youngsters and coaches currently involved in the game at the grassroots level in the Ottawa area.

"It's a great influence in minor hockey and I think it's a great message to young players in Ottawa," Senators general manager Bryan Murray, a product of nearby Shawville, Que., noted in Pittsburgh. "If you are a good player, we will certainly look at you as a candidate (to play for) the Senators. These people become big role models. They stay in Ottawa for a long time and they have a big influence on young people and the fans in the city."

Even though he's still getting his feet wet within the Senators organization, the 18-year-old Ceci is already well aware of the impact he can have in his hometown.

"I think it’s really important," Ceci said of the route he's taken in playing for the 67's and being drafted by the Senators. "Everyone (in Ottawa) should realize they have a chance to do it. Everything has fallen into place to me and I’ve been pretty fortunate, getting drafted by my hometown team twice now ... It’s just important that they know anyone can do it."

Ceci watched Prince get drafted by the Senators a year ago and knew all about his early experiences with the organization, from development camps to rookie tournaments and even a chance to play in a National Hockey League pre-season game.

"That was pretty cool," said Ceci. "I knew I’d have a great chance of getting drafted myself if I put together a great season. After the season, I was wondered what team was going to pick me up. I knew the odds were one in 30 that it would be Ottawa, but everything seemed to work out."

Prince couldn't have been happier to see his 67's teammate join him in getting to stay in Ottawa.

"I was really excited. He’s one of my good friends," said Prince. "He’s a great player and a great guy. I thought it was an unbelievable pick and I’m glad to have him here. It’s awesome he was still available at 15 for Ottawa to pick him."

Even though Prince isn't homegrown — he's a native of Spencerport, N.Y., in the Rochester area — he's still aware of the impact seeing 67's players move on to the Senators can have on young players in the capital.

"A lot of people come out and watch the 67’s and to be able to watch their players progress to the next level someday ... it’s pretty cool," he said. "I’m very fortunate and I think Cody is, too. It’s both of our dreams to play in the NHL someday and if we’re both playing here together at the same time, it would be awesome."

Seeing Ceci throw on a 67's jersey at the draft surely put a smile on the face of Cowick, who played with the big blueliner when he was a rookie with the junior team and was his driver for much of that season ("he didn't have his licence yet").

"I had to wait a little longer — a couple of years and a couple of rounds — but when I looked at the pre-draft rankings and saw where he was and got talking to a couple of people around there, I thought it would be a pretty cool feeling (for him)," said Cowick. "Cece is a great kid and he’s got a great family right here. It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid and a nicer family. Having gone through that (myself), I knew it was a pretty special day for him and I was happy to see his whole family was there with him in Pittsburgh."

Cowick also knows the impact all of this can have on kids in the communtiy.

"A lot of kids grow up going to 67’s games ... it’s a very family-based kind of experience," he said. "A lot of kids grew up watching these players. I remember watching Matt Zultek and guys like that. Having those guys stay local ... you’ve got a guy like Ceci who’s been a star with the 67’s and he’s probably going to jump to the NHL real soon, so it’s pretty cool to not have to go far to watch his development. It’s a dream and we’re kind of living it right now."

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