OTTAWA — The scouts spread themselves out in the corners and throughout the upper bowl to take another look in on the Class of 2011 and left with a vivid memory of what’s lies ahead in June, 2012.
Cody Ceci, the Ottawa 67’s standout 17-year-old on defence, jumped up into the play and roofed the game-winner with 31 seconds remaining in overtime to make a rink full of National Hockey League scouts momentarily, and only momentarily, forget all about this June’s sure-fire top 5 pick Gabriel Landeskog.
Ceci’s goal, his 6th in his last 11 games, capped a 67’s third-period comeback, sent a season-high Rona Centre crowd of 7,590 away happy, and kept the 67’s lead atop the Ontario Hockey League’s East Division at five points with just five games to play.
And Shayne Campbell, playing in place of injured Petr Mrazek, made 40 saves to earn first star and not only kept Landeskog off the scoresheet, but also OHL leading scorer Jason Akeson, the Ottawa native and newest Philadelphia Flyer signee with 104 points.
“I’m just trying to bring my offensive game up,” said Ceci, who scored more than 70 points a minor midget in Peterborough before coming home to play a more stay-at-home style in his first 1 ½ seasons with the 67’s. “I’m just feeling more comfortable about taking more chances and taking more risks.
“I have a pretty big role in the defensive end here. But a lot of people wanted me to bring a bigger offensive game back and I’m just trying to get it back.”
Not lost on Ceci, or 2011 draft-eligible teammates Shane Prince and Tyler Graovac, and even 2013-eligible Sean Monahan, was that the who’s who of amateur scouting were there to see Landeskog, including Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray, assistant GM Tim Murray and director of player personnel Pierre Dorion.
The three wise men were watching their fifth game in five days between trips to Drummondville Wednesday, St. Catharines Thursday, two in the Boston-area Friday and Saturday, and Sunday back home.
Landeskog didn’t disappoint. The 67’s just kept him in check enough, and held him pointless for a third consecutive game this weekend, something he hasn’t done all season.
And Campbell, well he won’t make fans forget Mrazek, and he isn’t what Lou Gehrig was to Wally Pipp, but he was at his acrobatic-best keeping the 67’s within a goal from midway through the first until Ryan Martindale finally cashed his fifth of five great scoring chances at 11:41 on the third to set up overtime.
“I hated the Rangers growing up,” said Campbell, the most patient backup in the league and a native of nearby Kitchener. “Obviously it’s a little hard, playing 40 games last year (in Erie) to (just 11 this year). But Petr is a world-class goalie.
“And you can see why Landeskog is targeted to go first overall. He’s a great player.”
Included in his 40 saves, was a highlight-reel save sliding across to cover a pass from Akeson-to-Landeskog all alone in front.
“I was probably my best performance,” he said, of his entire afternoon, making his first back-to-back starts of the year.
Fans didn’t have to look hard to find the player they came to see and he comes to play.
Before every period, he just about runs over the Rangers goalkeeper coming through the gate and he spends little of his time on the bench sitting down. He’s raing to go and even kicked one past Campbell, which was called back midway through the game.
But his Rangers are two different teams, one at home where they’ve been beaten just four times all season against 24 home-ice wins, tied for tops in the league.
Take them away from the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, however, and they’re a .500 team (14-14-1-1) which can explain how they could lose 3-0 the night before in Belleville.
“I heard this and that that there would be a lot of scouts here,”….
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