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Today's player profile is on a familiar name for fans of the Edmonton Oil Kings and anyone who paid attention during the 2011 Canada Games in Halifax. It's Curtis Lazar, Edmonton's first selection (2nd overall) in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft. This profile is written by Jonathan Szekeres...
OUT OF NOWHERE
When Curtis Lazar took to the ice in Kelowna, BC's Pursuit of Excellence Program last season, he was a relative unknown in the hockey world. Strong play throughout the season and a couple of MVP Awards later, things have changed pretty dramatically. The Edmonton Oil Kings were sufficiently impressed by Lazar that they used their second overall pick on him at the 2010 WHL Bantam draft. He's since gone through the obligatory media blitz and now has strangers recognizing him on the streets in his hometown of Vernon, BC.
Lazar's rocket-like climb through the draft was nothing short of amazing. At the beginning of last season, he was pegged as a late third-rounder; as the season progressed, he rose to become a mid-to-late second-rounder. Then came the John Reid Memorial Tournament, one of Western Canada's most important Bantam events, where he posted 15 points in 5 games, including 9 goals. “The John Reid Tournament was really my coming out party”, says Lazar. “It was the best hockey I’ve ever played, and it was really where the Oil Kings first started to notice me.”
The hardware Lazar took home from the event was enough to fill a small trophy case on its own. He grabbed MVP honors, was named the tournament's top forward, and an all-star.
Proving the tournament was no fluke, Lazar finished the year strong, netting 115 points in 51 games and was the recipient of the 2010 “Hockey Now/BC Hockey Hall-of-Fame Minor Hockey Player Achievement Award.”
Lazar's strengths are numerous; from his laser-like shot to his incredible speed and the crushing body checks he loves to dish out. But according to his Pursuit of Excellence coach Glen Naka, his best attributes are his leadership and his discipline. “He’s very disciplined. He controls his emotions, and even though he plays an in-your-face style, he never goes overboard.”
Lazar also takes care of his own end and even has his coach drawing comparisons to a recent Stanley Cup Champion and Conn Smythe winner. “If I had to compare him to an NHL player, I’d have to say he’s like Jonathan Toews. A great two-way player that can create offense. He’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas, do the gritty jobs,” says Naka.
Is the NHL a possibility for Lazar? He certainly hopes so. “My ultimate goal is to play in the NHL. I think I have the talent and the skill, and it’s a really long road ahead, but I’m on the right track.”
If the raw talent, the endless accolades, and the constant heaps of praise weren’t enough, he’s also well spoken, polite, and a straight-A student. Just don’t ask him for his autograph: “I have been practicing it, but it’s changed about five times. It’s more scribbled than anything.” - Jonathan Szekeres
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(Photos: Edmonton Oil Kings / Andy Devlin / 2011 Canada Games)