Imagine that. Lucic, a 21-year-old budding star with the Boston Bruins, is a potential candidate to wear the maple leaf as one of 23 players on Canada's Olympic team -- and it could all happen in the city in which he was born, learned to play the game and began his major junior career. Rather than have his Olympic dream take him to Salzburg, Austria, Pyeongchang, Korea, or Bern, Switzerland -- the other finalists -- Lucic would be able to sleep in the house he was raised in and drive to the rink in search of Olympic gold.
Now comes the hardest part -- making the team.
On July 2, Lucic's name was one of 46 listed on Canada's Orientation Camp roster, and with all due respect, it was a surprise nomination. The burly left wing has only two NHL seasons under his belt, scoring 25 goals and 69 points with 225 penalty minutes in 149 games. But there he is, listed alphabetically between All-Stars Vincent Lecavalier and Patrick Marleau, in the company of Stanley Cup winners (Eric Staal, Ryan Getzlaf), NHL scoring champions (Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton) and sure-fire future Hall of Famers (Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer).
"Lucic is a big, strong, skilled forward that can go up and down his wing and he can make a play and score a goal." - Steve Yzerman
"Lucic is a big, strong, skilled forward that can go up and down his wing and he can make a play and score a goal," said Executive Director Steve Yzerman, the main force behind the 46 selections. "Based on his play in the playoffs, he's a guy that can bring a different element, so we won't have four lines that do the same thing. Milan is developing into a player who I feel can be on this team. We say muscle, but I’m not bringing somebody to go out and beat up the other teams here, that’s not the way you are going to be effective in this tournament. Big, strong, fast, skilled players give you an advantage and he (Lucic) has potential to really add a dimension to our team that can be beneficial."
Those words have not been lost on Lucic, who is already in Team Canada mode as Orientation Camp, scheduled for Aug. 24-28 in Calgary, draws closer. "I'm preparing a little earlier," he said. "Canada camp comes 2 1/2 weeks before regular (Boston) camp, so I'm going on the ice a little earlier, getting into more game-like situations to prepare, doing on-ice stuff." Off the ice, Lucic is working out with Ian Gallagher, the strength and conditioning coach of the WHL Vancouver Giants, his old junior team.
Canada's Olympic entries from 1998 (Rod Brind'Amour, Shayne Corson, Keith Primeau), 2002 (Owen Nolan, Michael Peca) and 2006 (Todd Bertuzzi, Shane Doan, Kris Draper) were dotted with forwards chosen either for their physicality and/or intangibles, leaving the scoring to the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Joe Sakic, Mario Lemieux, Dany Heatley and Jarome Iginla. That's where Lucic comes in.
Next month in Calgary, Lucic will likely be competing for a third- or fourth-line spot with other physical, big, agitating forwards. His game is most similar to other camp invitees Dan Cleary, Doan, Brenden Morrow, Jordan Staal and Getzlaf. But those players aren’t Lucic's concern -- yet. "I haven't looked into the roster," he said. "I'm not looking to change a thing. The things I do well -- be hard on the forecheck, strong on the puck -- are why they picked me. It wouldn't be smart to try and be fancy. I play my game, hard and simple, and I won't have any regrets.
"There is no fighting in the Olympics. He didn't bring me in to fight. I'll be an effective player in doing what I do."
The camp roster lists Lucic at 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, making him one inch shorter than a handful of players and the second-heaviest forward. Of the 46 invitees, only Jordan Staal and Drew Doughty are younger.
Among the 23 forwards, Lucic is one of only 10 wingers, which may give him an advantage. But for the chance to play in the Olympics, most forwards would gladly line up in a different position -- and Lucic is no different. "Growing up I was always a centerman and I switched to wing when I came into juniors," he said. "I don't think I'd be able to play center again, but I could definitely switch over to right wing … wherever they want me to play. But most important is to make the team first."
Lucic does have some international experience to draw from. In 2007 he captained Canada in an eight-game under-20 series against Russia to mark the 35-year anniversary of the famed Summit Series. Lucic recorded 3 assists and 16 penalty minutes, but more important to him was Canada’s 7-0-1 record.
"It was a great experience, my first event for Canada," Lucic said. "Being a part of that series was something, and it was hard-fought like back in the day in ’72.
"Being captain was a huge honor and I learned a lot from it."
Author: Rocky Bonanno | NHL.com Staff Writer