By Brian O’Neill
Cody Ceci is currently living a dream he doesn’t want to wake up from. Ceci was drafted 15th overall in 2012 by the Ottawa Senators, his hometown team, and after impressing during a recent call-up, he was told mid-January that he’s staying with the Senators for the rest of the season.
Unfortunately he did have to pinch himself so he can deal with one minor, though important, detail – making sure he had a place to live.
“They told me before we left for Nashville, actually,” Ceci said. “Right after they told me, we had to pack up and get ready for the road trip and I came back and I wasn’t in the hotel anymore.”
So add house hunting to his list of tasks. Quietly, Ceci put an offer on a relatively new house only to have it fail inspection with a crack in the foundation. Determined to not check into a hotel or move back in with his parents in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, Ceci found another place and recently moved in with his sister and her boyfriend.
Living arrangements: check.
Atop his checklist now is shutting down a team’s top offensive talents nightly. Ceci, 20, went from emergency fill-in in December to securing a full-time roster spot in under two months. He was called up Dec. 12 when blueliners Marc Methot came down with the flu and Jared Cowen was serving a two-game suspension for a hit to the head of Buffalo Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons.
Since then, he has one goal and five assists while averaging top four minutes on defense, playing more than 17 minutes a game. His lone goal came at home in his third game Dec. 16. It was a harmless looking wrist shot from the point that beat St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott high blocker side to give the Senators a 3-2 overtime win.
“Every game he plays he gets more confidence and that’s half the battle,” said right winger Chris Neil. “He’s been compared with Chris Phillips a lot. I think with ‘Philly’ that veteran presence has helped him out a lot, just bringing him along and simplifying his game.”
Ceci has been paired with Phillips, putting together a rookie who has an offensive upside with a defense-minded veteran. Ceci said Phillips has helped elevate his game, providing him with a blueprint of a solid puck moving defenseman. Personally, playing with Phillips provides Ceci, who grew up a Senators fan, with the chance to skate alongside someone he idolized.
“He’s been a guy I’ve grown up watching,” Ceci said. “He’s been around for a long time so it’s pretty cool to pass him the puck and get the puck from him in games and practices.”
As an emergency call-up, Ceci wasn’t expected to be with the Senators long. That created a sense of urgency, a feeling that he had a small window of opportunity to impress. Neil said he told Ceci to keep his game simple those first few games.
And Ceci has continued to do that. In 26 games, he has a plus-3 rating and has only committed five giveaways. At 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, he’s a big defenseman who could utilize his size to fulfill a more shutdown role. Add a strong point shot and an average of nearly two minutes of power play time a game, and the Senators have themselves someone who can impact a game in many ways. Now he’s here to stay.
“He’s a good kid,” said Neil. “He’s quiet with a good demeanor on him and a good professional work ethic. You know, that’s what it takes.”