The smile is back.
The newest member of the Flames, Curtis Lazar, is known for his trademark grin but it had been missing of late. That was until the trade deadline deal that sent him from Ottawa to Calgary.
The Senators chose Lazar 17th overall in the 2013 draft. He was a captain, he was a Memorial Cup and world junior champion, and he had the character teams wanted and needed.
But somewhere between his first and third year in the NHL, something went wrong. Whether it was new coaches and new systems or his own play as he struggled to find confidence, it became clear the kid from Salmon Arm needed to leave the Nation's Capital and head west, young man.
Lazar admitted Calgary was at the top of his list for a new address. He likes the young nucleus on the team, played for Flames assistant coach Dave Cameron in Ottawa, knows some of the players, and has basically fit in like a glove here so far.
Except for one thing: he can't crack the lineup because, well, the team is one of the hottest in the NHL. You don't mess with that chemistry right now.
In our conversation for this Flames Up Close podcast, Lazar says he understands the unique situation here right now, especially as he's still learning the ropes. He opens up about thinking of taking a leave of absence from hockey. He also discusses how happy he is to be here and how he can learn from teammate and former first-round pick Mikael Backlund when it comes to patience and perseverance.
Even though he's not in the lineup yet, Lazar says he feels like he's back in junior.Light. Happy.
A fresh start for a first-round pick - definitely something to smile about.