Former Canadian World Juniors captain and beloved BC boy with the smile that could light up the Rockefeller Centre Christmas Tree, Curtis Lazar is now a Canuck – and that’s just friggin dandy.
It’s not often a fourth line signing creates much buzz – the guys that fill out the bottom of a team’s roster are often overlooked and seen as temporary. Curtis Lazar is different. Once a highly touted prospect and 13th overall pick, Lazar was lauded for his great acceleration, effective shot and high hockey IQ. Believe it or not, his high-end comparables were Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin with Mike Fisher as a conservative projection (The Hockey Writers). High praise for a young kid who was, even in junior, not a world shattering point producer.
Fast forward almost a decade and many would consider Lazar a bust – and those critics would not be entirely wrong if they were expecting a 40-50 point middle-6 shutdown center. Unfortunately, Lazar couldn’t seem to translate point production to the NHL, but without any bitching, moaning or pouting – the young fella carved out a new role for himself as a gritty fourth liner who seems to be getting more effective every year. He posted a career high in goals (8), hits (186) and blocks (51) last season with the Bruins playing an average of 12 minutes per game.
Again. Not earth shattering production. His comparison to our last fourth-line-phenom – Tyler Motte – is actually very similar. Both boast a combination of speed and skill, both play with their hearts on their sleeves and both are relentless forecheckers who throw the body. In short, Lazar is another character guy who brings an element of tenacity to the fourth line which can be endlessly frustrating for opposing defensemen.
Tyler Motte also brought his A game to the bubble playoffs and was clearly a difference maker. Should the Canucks make the playoffs, we can expect a similar spark from Lazar. Curtis Lazar, over the course of 2 WJHC tournaments had a total of 8 goals and 16 points in 14 games – exceeding his regular season averages in the WHL. Granted there are mismatches in those tournaments and skilled linemates, but to score at that pace while wearing the C is nothing to sneeze at.
Given the depth that Vancouver has on the wing with the signings of Mikheyev and Kuzmenko, we can expect Lazar to see some time with the likes of Nils Hoglander, maybe Tanner Pearson, possibly even Ilya Mikheyev. This might lead to some more offensive production – but even if it doesn’t, he brings a ton of energy and tends to make his fellow fourth liners better.
It’s no secret that Tyler Motte’s presence was missed by the Canucks’ fourth line following his departure at the trade deadline. The peppy grinders were pretty lackluster without Motter mixing things up. So, kudos to management for making this move. I expect Curtis Lazar to fill the Motte void and maybe even exceed what he brought to the table – let’s hope that the pride of Salmon Arm can find another level playing for the team he once supported on as a kid.
Gotta love the local boys opting to play for our Nucks. No doubt he’ll be a fan-favourite in short order.