While a dozen draft eligible defensemen were battling for seven roster spots on Canada’s entry in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, two were focused elsewhere.
Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67s and Everett Silvertips captain Ryan Murray skated alongside the likes of Ryan Johansen, Erik Gudbranson and 2011 NHL Entry Draft first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Canada’s National Junior Team Development Camp.
The duo, too old by Hlinka standards, instead squared off against Canada’s top players under 20-years-old as the only 2012 NHL Entry Draft eligibles in camp.
“Coming in I was pretty nervous, being the younger guy and not drafted,” Ceci admitted. “Little nervous in that sense.”
Murray, 85 days Ceci’s elder, may have been a little more at ease. The Silvertips defenseman was in Canada’s selection camp for the 2011 World Junior Championship last December.
“Me and Ceci are obviously the young guys here but you just go out there and play hockey and do your best,” said the six-foot-one, 200-pound defenseman.
Both have an impressive history with Hockey Canada. Murray captained Canada at both the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament last summer and the 2011 World Under-18 entry in Germany this spring. He also played in the 2010 World Under-18 Championship as an underager.
Ceci joined Murray at the 2011 World Under-18 Championship and won a silver medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge as a member of Team Ontario.
These experiences, combined with the talent they possess, should’ve rested the nerves of Murray and Ceci according to Hockey Canada’s Kevin Prendergast.
“They have a confidence in their game and they both know how to play so I don’t see why they’d put pressure on something they’re really good at,” he said.
Don Hay, who will be Canada’s head coach at the 2012 World Junior Championship, echoed Prendergast’s sentiments.
“I think the reason they’re here is because they’re mature guys,” Hay said. “Even though they’re younger they have the maturity to compete at this level and that’s what important. They’re not overwhelmed and they do a good job every time they come out.”
It’s that maturity that has Murray and Ceci as potential top picks in 2012. Murray is ranked second behind only Nail Yakupov in Future Considerations’ Preliminary Ranking for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, while Ceci sits 14th.
“There’s definitely a lot of good defensemen out there,” Murray said. ”I’ve heard a lot of names and played against a lot of great defensemen in the draft class next year and it’s going to be tough to stay on top of that one. There are lots of great young kids coming up.”
“There’s a lot of good defense,” noted Ceci, the ninth ranked defenseman heading into the year. “I have to stay on top of my game and get noticed out there and hopefully go high in the draft.”
It shouldn’t be hard with the skills they possess.
“They’re good,” Prendergast said. “They’re fun to watch. They’re both extremely smart. Ceci is strong is in own end but Murray is a kid that just does everything well.”
Hay, whose Vancouver Giants share the WHL’s Western Conference with the Silvertips, praised Murray.
“I see a lot of Ryan Murray being in Everett and he’s a real quality player,” Hay professed. “He’s the captain of his team, he was the captain of his Under-18 team and he’s a real solid steady player.”
But Hay wasn’t about to leave the six-foot-two, 203-pound Ceci without a kind word.
“What I see in Ceci, same type of things,” he said. “Big, strong young man, and well schooled in his position. Both those players have a lot of potential.”
The potential to be at the top of their draft class.
Aaron Vickers is the managing editor of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!