It's been a long, strange journey for Casey Cizikas on his way to an NHL contract. The center was billed as having "second-round talent" in 2009, but an on-field rugby tragedy elicited aggressive prosecution and left his fate unknown on Draft Day 2009.
That dropped him to the fourth round and had to make his draft day far less special than he once dreamed. But resolution that summer seemed to be the start of a new beginning, he returned to have a rebound 2009-10 season and captained Mississauga this year to the OHL and Memorial Cup finals.
Now his pro career is about to begin, having signed a three-year entry level deal with the Islanders just before the deadline upon which he would have re-entered the draft. It sounds cliche, but all accounts are of a solid character and skilled, hard-working two-way player (remember "The Shift" from this year's WJC?) who should have every opportunity to find a niche in the NHL.
Playmaker, penalty killer, boards battler -- a lot of the qualities the Islanders or any team can use from a home-grown product. He's already 20, so pencil him into the organizational depth chart and start guessing when he'll get his first NHL game.
And of course, recall how his PK shift against Russia in this year's WJC was the stuff of instant legend:
Cizikas: The Shift
Cizikas' signing means Anders Lee is all that's left to sign from that 2009 draft class. John Tavares is John Tavares, but add some interesting hopes attached to Lee, Calvin De Haan and Cizikas, plus the recently signed Anders Nilsson, and that draft could turn out to be a pivotal moment in the Islanders' anticipated renaissance.
If the Islanders are consistent playoff contenders in a few years, you have to imagine three or four of those guys end up playing important roles.
In Cizikas' age 19 and 20 seasons, he's been over a point-per-game player in both the regular season and playoffs (This season he missed significant time late with a wrist injury.):
|Mississauga St. Michaels Majors
|Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
|St. Michaels Majors
|St. Michael's Majors
Add another one to the stable as this restocking marches onward.