Curtis Lazar notably drew attention when he broke tournament records set by Sidney Crosby (points) and Steven Stamkos (goals) at the 2011 Canada Winter Games for Team British Columbia when he was just 16 years old.
Since then, he has continued to excel for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL) - a team that always seems to be in the championship hunt.
Lazar is a strong skater and reads plays well on the ice. His vision allows him to position himself in the right place at the right time offensively and defensively, making him a versatile and valuable player for Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal. Because of his play-reading ability, he creates turnovers and makes life miserable for opponents’ top lines in the WHL both shorthanded and at even strength...what's not to like about that?
Offensively, Lazar has a strong and accurate shot, making him more of a goal scorer than a playmaker. Though his point totals are not super high, he is invaluable as a defensive forward and one that has a knack for being on the right side of the puck. Ranked at No. 26 on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings list, many consider Lazar to be underrated pick that could make an impact early in his NHL career, but viewed by many as a player who could have a long NHL career because of his ability to change and adapt.
"He's got real good puck-handling ability, is a smart offensive guy and skates well," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He's being used on the power play and they put him in front of the net and he does a good job."
Lazar can sometimes be a more conservative player, which causes him to miss some key opportunities and scoring chances. His play-it-safe style shows that he still has not tapped into his full potential, making him an interesting selection for the 2013 NHL Draft. His passing ability could also be improved upon, though he is already an extremely well-rounded player. He confidently plays in all types of situations and excels at every level, another comforting feeling for the head coach when he sends a player over the boards.
Many scouting and draft experts think Lazar has a chance to play in the NHL this year, but in the end, that decision is made by the player. He has the potential to start out as a third or fourth line forward at center or on the right wing, and depending on the speed of his development, could easily work his way up to the second line and see substantial ice time on special teams.