Casey Cizikas' first full NHL season -- well, to the extent the lockout allowed a "full" season -- went pretty much as expected for the prospect who attacks play like a bulldog and embraces his role like a well-trained pup of any breed.
While the Islanders have several budding NHLers under 25 with high-end potential we hope they'll reach, Cizikas' projected role has a lower ceiling. But it's one he may have already reached, in a good way. It's certainly one we've anticipated for him as he's moved up each level. While there is room for the 22-year-old to improve, it was reassuring to see him shine again in Bridgeport during the lockout and then never look back as the Isles called him up for the season.
Expectations for Cizikas are for a good third- or fourth-line forward who can be dogged on the forecheck, contribute the odd goal, take penalty kill time, and change the tone of games when other lines are stuck in neutral.
Cizikas managed all of that in 2012-13 and continued it in the playoffs while logging under 11 minutes of TOI per game throughout the season. His big goal against the Panthers, which we went into in a little too much detail, was an example of when a zealous forecheck pays off.
Hopefully that's a sign of things to come, and Cizikas' embrace of that role is why our panelists put him so high in our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 countdown.
Some comments from our panel:
Cizikas has probably peaked on my Top 25U25 list this year, but that's just a testament to the talent the Islanders have coming through their system. Cizikas had an effective rookie season after starting the season as a healthy scratch option. Too good for a 4th line role, but with better future options at the 3rd line center position, Cizikas will likely find himself playing the wing in the future. I see a consistent 10+ goal, 25+ point player in Cizikas.
Mike of the FIG People:
Beast. That is all… What you want more? Fine. He's pretty much where he should be for his career. That is, so long as the rest of the prospects pan out as expected. The Isles could have four lines they can roll at will every night, and Zeeker would be an important part of that.
David and the Hanssens:
Taking results over potential here. Cizikas might have already reached his ceiling as a 3rd/4th line center, but the fact he already has about a full season under his belt at age 22 and had an impressive playoffs puts him above less experienced, but more talented peers.
25U25 Spring 2013 Countdown
8. Matt Martin
15: d Calvin de Haan
16: F Anders Lee