(Editor's note: This is one in a series of features about prospects who might possibly be available when the Ottawa Senators make the No. 15 selection of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, set for June 22-23 in Pittsburgh. Choices are based on rankings by several services, including NHL Central Scouting, but are not a reflection of Senators' internal scouting rankings).
It was the snub that lit a fire under Cody Ceci.
Rather than mope about missing out on a chance to represent his country on home soil, the Ottawa 67's defenceman took out his frustrations on the rest of the Ontario Hockey League. The payoff should come later this month, when the Orleans native hears his name called within the top half of the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh.
Perhaps he'll even fall within the radar of his hometown Ottawa Senators, who own the 15th overall selection and could be in the market for a young blueliner to bolster their back end. Some draft experts have the 6-2, 203-pound Ceci slotted in about that area, while others see him going much sooner. He sits ninth overall in the latest rankings by International Scouting Services, while NHL Central Scouting rates Ceci in the No. 6 spot among North American skaters.
Central Scouting pushed Ceci up 10 places from his mid-season rating of No. 16, a testament to the performance the 67's defenceman turned in after being cut at Team Canada's selection camp for the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Alberta. He got the unfortunate news just days shy of his 18th birthday.
"I gave myself a good shot at making the team," Ceci told NHL.com. "Unfortunately, they didn't need me this year. I just took that as something to fuel the fire. I think it's just helped me develop as a player, develop me characteristically. I just had to take that and drive myself to become a better player in the second half."
Ceci finished the season with 17 goals and 60 points, both numbers ranking him second among all OHL blueliners. He also posted a +21 rating over 64 games, then added another 15 points in 18 playoff games. Ceci was also a huge minute-muncher for 67's coach Chris Byrne, who often used his prized blueliner for up to 30 minutes a night.
"He's a guy that's got a lot of puck-handling ability, real good puck smarts," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He handles and moves the puck excellent ... very well. He's got a great shot and he gets it through to the net hard and accurate. His playmaking ability is excellent on the back end."
If there is a knock against Ceci, it's his level of physical play. Despite his size, he only recorded 14 penalty minutes in 64 games.
"It hasn't really been a big part of my game. It should be," said Ceci. "I might try to add it this summer. I'm just trying to get ready for NHL camps. I know they're more physical up there. I've got the size to do it, (but) I've just got to work on getting a mean streak in me and go from there."
Said Edwards: "He's not a big, punishing type of guy. To me, that's something he's probably got to work on. He's still got to be able to contain some people at the next level ... As much as you love his offensive ability, I think that (physical play) is something he'll improve on when he gets to the next level."