It is no secret that Curtis Lazar has struggled to find the back of the net in his young NHL career. With Head Coach Guy Boucher coming in and implementing a high tempo offensive system and using each player’s strength, could this be the key to getting Lazar back on the score sheet and show why he was the 17th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft?
Lazar’s Junior Career
There is a very good reason the Ottawa Senators selected Lazar in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft, he is a leader and a goal scorer. Spending his entire junior career with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Lazar put up 232 points (106 goals) in 266 regular season and playoff games. Lazar also wore the “A” for his last 2 seasons and was a part of the team that won the Memorial Cup in 2013-14, where Lazar made an impact with 4 points in 5 games.
When Lazar was drafted 17th overall, many scouts were shocked he was still on the board as he was ranked 12th by the International Scouting Service. Per a scouting report by Sportsnet, the qualities Lazar brings are that he plays a great two-way game, has soft hands to score in tight areas and can play a physical game.
Lazar’s skill was noticed by Hockey Canada; he played at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial U-18 tournament and played twice for Team Canada National World Junior Team, serving as captain his second year and winning a gold medal. In a best-on-best tournament at the junior level, Lazar excelled offensively at over a point per game pace with 21 points (11 goals) in 19 games played.
NHL Career to Date
Having now played two full seasons with the Ottawa Senators, there is no doubt that the offense has dried up for Lazar. In 149 games, he has only 12 goals and 35 points. Clearly, the Senators are looking for more from a player that showed his potential at the WHL level and at International Tournaments.
Lazar’s role on the Senators to date has seen him play in the bottom six, mainly in a checking type role. Looking at his most consistent linemates from the list compiled by HockeyAnalysis.com, there is Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Chris Neil, Erik Condra (traded last year to Tampa Bay) and Alex Chiasson (traded in the off-season to Calgary). Lazar played limited time with some of the Senators top players and has seen some success. For example, while playing 512 minutes with Pageau five on five, Lazar had seven points, playing five on five with a more offensively minded player in Mike Hoffman he had six points in 235 minutes. That is nearly the same amount of points in 50 percent
Lazar played limited time with some of the Senators’ top players with some success. For example, while playing 512 minutes with Pageau five on five, Lazar had seven points, and playing five on five with a more offensively minded player like Mike Hoffman, he had six points in 235 minutes. That is nearly the same amount of points in 50 percent fewer minutes played. One of the key’s to get Lazar back on the score sheet is to put him on a line with more offensively minded players, ideally out of the bottom-six.
“I did what I was asked to do, to play a very solid (centre on a fourth line) when I was asked to do that, hopefully, my role is going to get bigger.” Curtis Lazar interview with Ken Warren, Ottawa Citizen, April 11, 2016
New Season, New Coach, New Role
A lot has been made of improved seasons from Hoffman under the high-tempo system of new head coach Guy Boucher. There will be another beneficiary of this system with a new coach behind the bench, that being Lazar. Speaking to the Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren after Boucher was hired, Lazar said he was excited to work with the Senators’ new bench boss, “I’m ecstatic to be able to work with him, he seems like a passionate guy and when you hear all the confidence that management has for him, it puts you at ease as a player.”
When Boucher took over the role as head coach he emphasized the need for communication and helping players improve. “Whatever I can do to go figure out something that’s going to help the player get an edge and find a way to improve, I do it. That’s where it starts.” Boucher said.
This emphasis on communication, combined with a high-tempo game should benefit the young Lazar. With Clarke MacArthur recovering from a concussion, the door is open for the Salmon Arm, British Columbia-native to join Ottawa’s top six and allow him to take the next step in his NHL career.