Thursday, June 13, 2013

2013 Draft Blog: Curtis Lazar Pt.4

We have had the good fortune this season to have Edmonton Oil Kings forward Curtis Lazar blogging for us. Every two or three months he has summed up chunks of the year to let fans behind the curtain a bit and get a sense of what it's like for him in such a key year of his career. 

The first entry from Edmonton Oil Kings forward Curtis Lazar came to us back in September. If you missed it you can find it HERE. Chapter 2 included his experiences in the early part of the 2012-13 WHL season and the Subway Super Series.  Part 2 is available HERE. Part 3 came out in early February and captured the CHL Top Prospects game and the mid point of the schedule.  Read that entry HERE

Today Curtis has submitted his final installment of his blog series with us. Lazar revisits the WHL playoffs and takes us through the recent NHL Combine.

Just a personal note to thank Curtis for agreeing to do this with us this year and following through for the course of the entire season. For those that don't have the ability to watch him on a regular basis or to get to know him over the last two seasons like we have, we can only impress upon you the high character level this young man possesses. He's a top talent on the ice and an even higher caliber person off of it. 

The Pipeline Show wishes Curtis the best of luck at the draft and beyond.

Photo: Andy Devlin
Hello everyone, Curtis Lazar here checking in for one last time.
The season is now over and I am just starting to get settled into my summer mode. Being back in Vernon BC, I have recently had some time to recap the entire season and also think about the events that are right around the corner.

Firstly, we have the playoffs. The time of the year in which every hockey player raises the intensity in hopes of lifting the championship trophy. We met up with the Kootenay Ice in the first round and we all were quite familiar with their team as we played them in the first round of the playoffs the previous season. The series lasted 5 games and we all were happy with the result but we knew that we all had some more to give. One player led the way for our team and that was Stephane Legault. 'Legs' got off to an incredible start which saw him put up 7 points in game one, he was hot and we used his momentum to make our way through round one and prepare for the Medicine Hat Tigers in our next challenge.

Photo: Brian Cheeseman
Our bus also needed some time to recover and recuperate for round two because we had a little mix up with a 600lb Elk on the way into Cranbrook. That was an experience in itself, most of us were sound asleep when we collided into the animal but before we knew it, the entire team was crowding the front of the bus trying to get a glimpse of the beast that took a nice chunk out of our bus.

Anyways back to hockey. The Tigers played us hard in every meeting during the regular season and we knew to knock them off we were going to have to bring our best. That was exactly what we did as we managed to swept the Tigers efficiently.

Next up, the battle of Alberta junior style. We had a tough time dealing with the Calgary Hitmen during the season but we hadn't matched up against them since before Christmas. No doubt this seven game slugfest was a war full of raw emotion, intense stick work, non stop chirping and ultimately some entertaining hockey. It was also an entertaining series for myself. 

Photo: Curtis Lazar
The morning of game 7 I was out during morning skate getting loose, running through my routines, when a puck deflected perfectly off the crossbar and smoked me square in the mouth. I was off to the dentist chair as soon as I took my gear off. What a way to prepare for a game 7! Being at the dentist allowed me to get the game off my mind and just clear my head. As I walked into the dressing room at 4:15 I put my game face (and smile) on and focused for one of the biggest games of my life. Despite a fat lip and a fake tooth, I still managed to have a solid performance.

The action in game 7 was constantly back and forth and end to end. We prevailed with a big win on home ice which crowned us the winner of the Battle of Alberta junior edition. Winning the Eastern Conference led to another opportunity; a rematch with the Portland Winterhawks for the WHL title.

Both teams were familiar with each other and it was clear that Portland wanted to come out on top this time around. The atmosphere in the Rose Garden is like none other; one single roar of the crowd sends shivers down your spine and leaves you deaf for the remainder of the evening. As a hockey player it doesn't take much to wake up for the games during the finals, you're body is running on pure adrenaline and you do all in your ability to put your team on the winning side. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
Unfortunately for us, we just couldn't handle the speed of the Winterhawks transition game and our power play woes really stung us. We bowed to the Winterhawks in six games which was emotional knowing that our season had ended.

A feeling that no one can really describe is the mood in the dressing room after our season came to an end. The team is your second family, and the fact that we could lose about 10 players made it that much more difficult to swallow. I really looked up to the older guys especially the 20 year olds. TJ Foster, Dylan Wruck and Trevor Cheek all meant so much to myself. They were there when I first got my feet wet in the league and guided me into the player that I am. I was definitely sad to see those three move on but in saying that, they all have great futures ahead and I wish them all the best.

With the season gone we could now look ahead to the future. The 2013-14 Edmonton Oil Kings are going to be filled with a lot of new faces. I am excited to be the veteran presence for them and help them along just like Foster, Wruck and Cheek did for me. We created a great culture within the Oil Kings organization over the past two seasons and we will be looking to continue that trend in the next season. But before that time comes, I have some business to take care of for myself.

It is a big summer for me as I look forward to the NHL Entry Draft in New Jersey. First was the NHL combine. I had a quick turn around from the season and I found myself in Toronto before I knew it. I wandered into my hotel room to find out my roommate was Adam Tambellini. Adam and I hit it off right from the get go, he plays in the BCHL for the Surrey Eagles who were lucky enough to earn a spot in the RBC cup tournament. Before his time in Surrey, Adam actually was a member of the Vernon Vipers, my hometown team! It was really neat to talk about his experiences in Vernon and I am glad to say I made a great friend who I will continue to keep in touch with.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday consisted of interviews with the NHL teams. I had 26 interviews in total and the whole experience is one I will never forget. I was always nervous about the types of questions they would ask me but I can honestly say I didn't receive one out of the ordinary. Most interviews would ask about my family, where I'm from, my brothers and sister, and so forth. Then they would ask whether I prefer center or wing and a lot of teams mentioned the possibility of me playing wing at the pro level. Next were my strengths and weaknesses followed by why my stats were so goal heavy.

Photo: CHL Images
The last one always cracked me up. Every team brought up my fight with my good friend Darnell Nurse in the Top Prospects Game! everyone had a good chuckle about that and I just have my fingers crossed that someone doesn't draft me to be a tough guy!

Next up was the physical aspect of the week. The fitness testing has been made famous due to the dreaded Wingate and V02 bike tests that leave a lot of players with a light head and a bucket full of puke ( I luckily didn't puke). The day starts with about 2 hours worth of medical tests that range from some reaction drills on a computer to a 20 minute ultrasound of your heart. It was a quite thorough meeting with 3 doctors and getting hooked up to some weird contraptions. Finally came the real tests. Before I knew it I was being herded like livestock from one station to the other doing my best on test such as bench press, vertical jump, medicine ball throw etc. As I completed test after test, I could just see the bike getting closer and closer and before I knew it, I was duct taped in and ready for the Wingate.

The Wingate is the longest 30 seconds of your life where you give it all you've got. Believe me! the 30 seconds feels more like 2 minutes. After finishing my bike, I was guided to a back room which was full of chairs that surrounded one garbage can. It was quite depressing sitting in the chair as your legs seize up and you try to catch your breath while watching a bunch of other players puke into the garbage. We spend probably the quickest 30 minutes ever possible in this room before hopping onto another bike this time for the V02 test. The bikes were a lot to handle but knowing  you are moving in the right direction towards the NHL made it worthwhile. After the V02 I was done, and oh boy did it feel good.

Photo: Ken McKenna/HF
I summed up the testing as "we are the exhibits at a zoo" people were all coming to watch us perform to the best of our abilities. The feeling of all the NHL staff and personnel staring at you while you get your body fat and height and weight done is one that I still cannot describe. It was fun but also nerve racking because you have no idea what they are thinking.

As the combine was completed I then traveled to some teams own combines as they wanted to do some more specific testing on my fitness and get to know me a little better. Seeing some of the facilities that the NHL teams call their own was awesome, It truly would be a thrill to play in any of the 30 NHL cities.

That brings us to the present. I am now in Vernon in my summer mode which consists of spending time with my family and friends, off-season training and enjoying all the fun stuff that comes with living in the beautiful Okanagan.  In closing, The date circled on my calendar is June 30th. That is the day where I will walk onto the stage to be greeted by Gary Bettman and welcomed into an NHL organization.

I cannot thank everyone enough for all that they have done for me. My family, friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, trainers, opponents, fans, the list goes on and on… have all been a big part of my life and have shaped me into the person I am today. As I walk up to the stage I want you all to know that I will be thinking about you all. As you see me smile, remember,  that is just my way of saying THANK YOU!

Until next time,

Curtis Lazar

Curtis Lazar is a center with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. He is listed by the team at 6'0 and 198 lbs. The B.C. native is universally considered a 1st round prospect for the 2013 NHL Draft. ISS ranked him 12th overall in their final ranking while NHL Central Scouting has him 20th in North America. He finished the regular season with 38 goals and 61 points after 72 games. He then added 9 goals and 11 points in the playoffs.

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