Okay, it wonâ€™t be so much an Oil Kings blog as it is a celebration of one particular Oil King. Curtis Lazar. This probably wonâ€™t be the only time I bring him up this season, and Iâ€™ll be championing him as the Leafs 2013 first round pick throughout the season.
My bias: In my short time in Edmonton I have become an Oil Kings fan. I think Henrik Samuelsson will be a solid two-way player for the Coyotes. I think Michael St. Croix has the potential to be a successful top six forward in the NHL. I wouldnâ€™t have been opposed to Griffin Reinhart being taken by the Leafs, but he certainly doesnâ€™t seem to possess much of an offensive game. Finally, Iâ€™m eternally optimistic that at some point Edmonton will rescue Morgan Rielly from a dismal Moose Jaw team.
So, first a little background on Curtis Lazar. Heâ€™s listed as a 6â€™0, 198lb. right shooting forward. Last season he put up 20 goals, 31 points in 63 games before breaking out in the playoffs and putting up 19 points in 20 games during the Oil Kings run to the Western Hockey League Championship.
Recently Bob McKenzie ranked Lazar number 9 in his preseason rankings, and TSN compared him to Patrick Sharp. Certainly Patrick Sharp seems like a fair comparison, but based on what Iâ€™ve seen, he seems to have more flash than Sharp, though itâ€™s worth noting the game that I chose to view Lazar would wind up being the best game of his short career.
So itâ€™s time to get the highlight out the way first with Lazarâ€™s game against the Red Deer Rebels. He scored his first WHL hat trick. It was an exciting spectacle, but if anything makes it a challenge to sound objective when raining down praise on him. Itâ€™s easy to be a fan of a top ranked prospect when he scores a hat trick, so hopefully I can provide a few other reasons why Lazar is a star.
Breaking down his three goals, he proved he has natural scoring ability, and isnâ€™t a one trick pony.
His first goal came while the Oil Kings were shorthanded. Using a chip out off the boards, Lazar broke into the zone on a one on one, and with the defender playing him conservatively he was able to perfectly place his shot high on the glove side, handcuffing the goaltender.
The second goal came early in the second period on a three on two. Henrik Samuelsson moved the puck over to Lazar on the right side allowing him to move in alone, and as the goaltender was repositioning he lightly placed the puck through the five hole.
Finally, the hat trick goal was in a scrambled broken play, and Lazarâ€™s quick release was the determining factor. What was nice to see is that Lazar is still legitimately excited about scoring in the CHL, and he hurried to make sure he had his hat trick puck.
Of course, when the WHL Champions take on a weakened Red Deer team that missed the playoffs and hasnâ€™t had Matthew Dumba returned to roster the numbers might be misleading. There is no doubt that offensively Lazar can dominate this level of competition. It will be interesting to see if the bulk of his points come against competition like Red Deer or if heâ€™ll be able to produce the same results a team like Saskatoon which has a drafted goaltender, and solid blueline.
The bonus with Lazar is that he isnâ€™t exclusively an offense only player. While Lazar was primarily used as a winger, his quick hands had him utilized on faceoffs frequently, and with a high success rate.
Lazar also plays in every situation. Heâ€™s on the Oil Kings top line, top powerplay unit, and was frequently out there on the penalty kill as well, though it seemed that his main service was keeping the defensemen honest.
Lazarâ€™s positioning was fairly strong when playing as a wing. He was a backchecking presence in his own end, and knows the best place to go to receive a pass. When Lazar was at center his positioning was not as strong. There were times when he looked lost in his own zone, and while his intentions were to stick with the puck carrier, this decision would frequently open up space for a Rebels scoring chance.
Skating wise, Lazar seems to be strong against WHL competition, but I donâ€™t think is his main selling point. Others will be better than him in the draft. His acceleration is probably the best part of his skating.
Later in the season Iâ€™ll revisit my love of Lazar, but with no NHL hockey on the horizon why not get an early jump on reviewing the 2013 Draft Class and hopefully promote the idea of supporting your local junior hockey team.
Cam Charron interviews Stuart Percy
I especially appreciate Cam asking Percy about his size and how thatâ€™s going to impact him at the next level.
Roberto Luongo: What will the asking price be?
Is it just me or is rosterbation pretty pointless until we know how the CBA plays out?
Hockey Cards: A Journey to the Past
Hockey Cards were at their best in the 80s. Now there are too many sets and inserts. Also, GET OFF MY LAWN!
League and NHLPA are meeting to discuss last seasonâ€™s Hockey Related Revenue
Iâ€™m assuming by Wednesday all remaining preseason games will be cancelled.
NHL Doing itself no favours in the battle over public opinion
Somehow billionaires that are withholding a sport we all love are finding new and interesting ways to make themselves unlikable. Whatâ€™s amazing is that most Oilers fans actually support building a billionaire an arena.