It’s 14 games into his first season with the Wranglers and Ciona – drafted 127th overall by the Flames in 2021 – is starting to settle into the daily rigours of professional hockey.
“It’s been an adjustment, for sure, it’s a big jump from junior to pro but I’m finding my stride,” Ciona explained. “It’s been good so far; I’m feeling more confident in my game every day.
“Here, it’s all about the finer details and for me it’s things like shoulder checking more and just knowing how to make the fast play, right away. Nothing is going to come easy, so I just need to keep working as hard as I can.”
At 6-2, 220 lbs., Ciona has been accustomed to taking over games with his strength and physicality, but he adds an offensive element, as well, which he showed last season notching 75 points (28g, 47a) in 63 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds.
“I’m always looking to add more of that to my game,” he explained. “I’d like to be on the powerplay and be a guy who can score some goals and create havoc in front of the net. I did that in junior and I love that.
“It’s kind of my happy place, being in front of the net, so I want to build on that and keep getting better.”
Ciona also has leadership credentials, being named captain of the Thunderbirds in 2022 as he helped lead them to a WHL championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup finals.
Overall, the experience was an impactful one.
“That’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” said Ciona. “It was such a privilege to wear the ‘C’ and to have that group of guys and go all the way and win it, and then to go to the Memorial Cup and come so close there, it was just so much fun.
“I definitely miss those guys, they’re all good friends of mine.”
The hockey world is a small one, however, so the 20-year-old still sees his old buddies from time to time.
“Dylan Guenther was here (with the Tucson Roadrunners) playing against us the other day and he and I went for a bite to eat after game,” he said.
As a former captain, Ciona is in great hands early on in his pro career playing on a line with Wranglers’ captain, Brett Sutter, who has amassed 1,059 AHL games (and counting …)
Of course, the kid is learning lots.
“He’s such a pro. He’s been doing it for 20-years now, which is crazy … that’s how old I am,” laughed Ciona, when asked about playing on a line with Sutter this season.
“Brett’s awesome,” he continued. “He comes to work every day with a positive attitude, shows us young guys the ropes and he’s always on us to be our best every time we go out there. He’s a great leader, leads by example and is a guy you want in your room … a guy you want to play for.”