The year of 2012 is quickly becoming known for the number of substantial injuries and the infirmary isn’t limited to National Hockey League players. The 2012 draft class has been hit harder than a tornado coming through Oklahoma City in the summer months. However, if these injured draft eligible players can return to good health soon then there is hope that we can switch the focus of 2012 from the “Year of the Injured” to the “Year of the Defenseman,” as it should be.
The National Hockey League will soon welcome a slew of defensive draft prospects into its league in what might be one of the richest draft classes for defensemen in quite some time. Last August, The Dean’s List profiled a few top defensive prospects for the upcoming 2012 NHL Entry Draft that featured the likes of Ryan Murray, Mathew Dumba, Jacob Trouba, Griffin Reinhart and Nick Ebert. Following that release, TDL examined the battle between two other WHL defensive studs in Derrick Pouliot and Morgan Rielly. This week, TDL skates over to the Ontario Hockey League to profile three defenseman scouts are quite high on –Matt Finn, Cody Ceci and Slater Koekkoek. The trio of OHL defensemen were recently ranked 15th, 16th and 17th respectively among North American skaters in the NHL’s Central Scouting Mid-Term Rankings.
Matt Finn – Guelph Storm (OHL)
Born: February 24, 1994
Height: 6-0 Weight: 197
2011-2012 Statistics: 36GP-6G-24A-30P, 38 PIM
Draft Rankings: TDL – 20th, ISS – 17th, CSS – 15th NA
Hailing from Toronto, Matthew Finn has been one of the early risers of the 2012 NHL draft class as he started the season ranked outside of the first round by most scouting services. Over the first half of the season, Finn has been patrolling the blueline like an attacking shark drawing the attention of everybody on the frozen water around him. The Storm entered the season as a team with few expectations but have certainly played better than projected and Matt Finn has been one of the main reasons for their success. Finn anchors a young blue line and plays a very controlled, poised game making him appear more as a savvy vet than a seventeen-year-old.
The Guelph Storm drafted Finn twelfth overall in the 2010 OHL Draft from the Toronto Marlboros where the swift skating rearguard put up 22 goals and 57 points. As a rookie in the OHL, Finn recorded 21 points last season and has already surpassed those totals this season as he enters the second half of the OHL season with 30 points (6th in OHL defensemen scoring). Finns quick rise up the draft rankings has been largely credited to his huge improvement and commitment to physical fitness. Finn is a dedicated player with good intangibles. Scouts are drawn to his hockey sense and intelligence, two qualities that will be extremely important for his success at the next level considering his average size.
Finn does not really excel at any particular skill but he’s very good in so many areas that he brings a complete game every night he steps onto the ice. Early in his career, Matt Finn has displayed fantastic leadership qualities as well and has become a player that seems to know what to do to achieve success – a trait impossible to teach. Despite the Guelph Storm’s mediocre success over the years the franchise has churned out some absolute beauties on the backend including current NHLers Drew Doughty, Dan Girardi, and Fedor Tyutin and we feel Matt Finn has the potential to join this list in the future.
Cody Ceci – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Born: December 21, 1993
Height: 6-3 Weight: 206
2011-2012 Statistics: 43GP-10G-32A-42P, 12 PIM
Draft Rankings: TDL – 10th, ISS – 11th,CSS – 16th NA
The Dean’s List has ranked Ceci as the highest of the three OHL defenders and it’s mainly due to the impressive combination of his size, mobility and two-way upside. As credentialed OHL writer, Todd Cordell, confessed to TDL, “Ceci is solid defensively and very good with the puck. He has good vision, good instincts at both ends of the rink and is very mobile”. Cordell continued, “Ceci certainly has all of the tools to make and have success in the NHL.”
Ceci, a 6-foot-3 two-way defenseman, has certainly made large strides through the first half of his draft year scoring nine goals and 40 points to place him second in OHL defenseman scoring trailing only Dougie Hamilton (50 points) who was last year’s top drafted OHL defenseman. Ironically, Cody Ceci was the Ottawa 67’s first round selection in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection Draft when the hulking defenseman went sixteenth overall ahead of Boston Bruins’ prospect Dougie Hamilton (2nd Round, 27th overall). The Peterborough native was an impressive player during his midget days notching 24 goals and 72 points in 52 games.
Ceci has developed nicely over the past few years when he more than doubled his rookie totals last year, from 12 points to 34 and is on pace to surpass the 63 point mark this season. Ceci’s development in his third major junior season has him playing with a ton of confidence and excelling in his puck-moving abilities. Cody does not play with too much of a physical edge (an area that experts would like to see an improvement in) but he does use his size and reach effectively in shutting down his opponents. Offensively, Ceci has exceptional hockey intelligence and earns his numbers through smart decision making and a big shoot from the point. Size, skating ability, and hockey smarts have caught the attention of the The Dean’s List and it would be hard to imagine Ceci waiting around too long at next year’s draft to be picked by a NHL team.
Slater Koekkoek – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Born: February 18, 1994
Height: 6-2 Weight: 183
2011-2012 Statistics: 26GP-5G-13A-18P, 17 PIM
Draft Rankings: TDL – 13th, ISS – 15th,CSS – 17th NA
The third and final OHL defenseman, The Dean’s List takes a gander at Peterborough Pete Slater Koekkoek. Last month, Slater Koekkoek received news that he would miss the remainder of the OHL season with a shoulder injury joining several other sidelined 2012 draft eligible players and crippling Peterborough’s 2011-2012 season. The projections on Slater have varied depending on the person you ask ranging from a top ten selection to a late first round pick. In all likelihood, Koekkoek will fall a bit in the draft due to his injury and limited exposure but the potential for a NHL team to “steal” him is very real considering Slater’s striking ability to get it done (the “it” factor) – an attribute TDL covets.
Playing for the Notre Dame Midget AAA team, Slater Koekkoek was a vital component of his team’s success in capturing the Telus Cup as the country’s top midget team where he earned MVP honours. Koekkoek was certainly coveted after posting sixteen goals, 43 points and spending 91 minutes in the sin bin for Notre Damn eventually becoming the Petes’ seventh overall selection in the 2010 OHL Priority Draft after fellow 2012 draft eligible members Alex Galchenyuk (1st), Brendan Gaunce (2nd), Scott Laughton (3rd), Jarrod Maidens (4th), Matthew Campagna (5th) and Jesse Graham (6th) were picked.
Koekkoek’s absence has Peterborough falling hard in the OHL standings as they definitely miss Slater’s ability to play huge minutes against the opposition’s top lines. Koekkoek is a fluid skater who enjoys joining the rush showing creativity on a nightly basis while unleashing his accurate shot that has a hair-trigger release. Playing at 6-foot-2, Slater uses his size efficiently at both ends of the rink making him a difficult defender to play against. The separated shoulder is certainly an unfortunate set-back for Slater Koekkoek but The Dean’s List is a huge supporter of his talents and feels that the future is bright for this young kid.
Be sure to follow The Dean’s List here at DobberHockey.com as well as on twitter (@rossyyoungblood) for analysis on 2012 NHL Draft eligible prospects.