This time one year ago Curtis Lazar was a surefire top-10 draft pick according to many scouts and draft pundits. This high praise was largely because of Lazar’s breakthrough playoff performance where he registered eight goals and 11 assists in 20 Western Hockey League playoff games. Lazar was a key reason why the Oil Kings won the WHL Championship last season and reached the Memorial Cup in Shawinigan.
The Vernon, BC native’s first real impression on scouts came back at the 2011 Canada Winter Games where Lazar was a member of Team British Columbia U16. For those of you who do not know the Canada Games are a national multi-sport games competition that brings the best athletes from each Canadian province and territory.
At the tournament, Lazar broke Steven Stamkos’ goal scoring record and Sidney Crosby’s point total record. Lazar, who was captain of Team B.C., finished the tournament with 12 goals and five assists. As a WHL rookie last season, Lazar had 20 goals and 11assists and finished with a plus-15 during the regular season. His aforementioned playoff performance from one season ago made Lazar a household name throughout the WHL.
But something happened to Lazar between then and now. His slow start to the 2012-13 regular season coupled with his failure to carry over his great play from the playoffs saw his draft stock plummet. Lazar had eight goals and 17 points in 27 games. Lazar did admit to Mike Morreale of NHL.com that all the draft hype surrounding him played a factor as to why he struggled early on.
Lazar regained his from in December and finished strong tallying 30 goals and 44 points in his final 45 games. Lazar’s 38 goals were tops on the team, and his 61 points were good for fifth.
Lazar can best be described as a pure goal scorer. He has an outstanding wrist shot and a sneaky good slap shot. His soft hands allow him to score goals in close off rebounds and deflections.
He has good vision and can make excellent passes, however too many times I’ve seen him try to be a one-man show offensively. For being 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, Lazar plays a tough game as he’s not afraid to throw his weight around. He’s solid on the forecheck and loves to position himself in front of the net. He could bulk up and add some muscle, but almost every draft eligible player needs to do that.
Lazar can even drop the gloves when need be. As a member of Team Orr at the 2013 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, Lazar dropped the gloves with Team Cherry defenseman and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound Darnell Nurse.
Nurse did best Lazar in the fight. However, that showed me Lazar’s willing to do what it takes to win. I like to see that out of a hockey player.
Lazar is one of the best defensive checking forwards in this draft. His face-off skills are superb and his quick stick allows him to intercept many passes. His excellent two-way game is why I think Lazar will transition well into pro game. Lazar is your prototypical north-south style player, and his willingness and ability to work in the dirty areas of the ice are what makes him a top prospect. I’ve see Lazar going anywhere from 12th overall to dropping out of the first round completely.
In my updated mock draft, I have Lazar going 24th overall to his hometown Vancouver Canucks. Vancouver could use a player like Lazar talent in their system. Besides Jordan Schroeder (22nd overall ’09) and Brendan Gaunce (26th overall ’12), the Canucks lack depth at center. Henrik Sedin and Derek Roy won’t be around forever. A center corps of Schroeder, Gaunce, and Lazar would make the Canucks formidable up front. I also listed the Edmonton center as my 22nd overall top prospect in the 2013 draft class.