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Lauzon brings physicality, compete to Pens

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

When he was a little kid growing up in Val D'Or, Quebec, Zachary Lauzon would go and watch the local junior team that featured a couple of future NHLers - one of them being Kris Letang.

Now, years later, Lauzon is in the same NHL organization as Letang. 

"Everybody says when you get drafted you don't have words to describe it, and that's truly the feeling," Lauzon said. "It's just overwhelming. It's incredible. To be drafted by such a classy organization and a successful one, too, is something amazing. I'll just enjoy the day with my family and I'm just very proud to be drafted by Pittsburgh.

"I kind of blacked out when it happened. Just try to enjoy the moment, but I'm aware it's just the first step and the real work will start right now, so I'm excited."

Lauzon said that while he's a two-way defenseman, what stands out about his game is his defensive play. He added that he tries to model his game after Sharks defenseman Marc Edouard Vlasic, who's known for being tough to play against and somebody that always matches up with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

"I'm very physical, I compete very hard and I win my 1-on-1 battles, so that's what I'm going to try to bring to the Penguins," he said.

And while the 6-foot, 187-pound blueliner said he wants to work on his skating and getting stronger, director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton said his skating is already impressive. 

"We like defensemen who are mobile, have great vision and can move the puck," Sexton said. "Obviously, defending is important, and Zach fits that bill. He's a tremendous skater, has great vision and he moves the puck well. He's not as offensive-oriented as other people, but he defends very well. Highly competitive. He'll fit right in in Pittsburgh."

The 18-year-old has spent the past two-plus seasons with Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL, earning the Kevin Lowe Award this past season as the best defensive defenseman in the league - the same award Letang won back in 2007.

"I'm the youngest guy in the history (of the league) who won it, so it's pretty big," Lauzon said. "And it's pretty good because it's the top award for the player that I am, so it's representative of my game. I was really proud of that."

Lauzon has accomplished a lot in his young junior career with the Huskies. In his rookie season, he and his teammates captured the QMJHL championship, earning the club a spot in the Memorial Cup. In the process, he was named to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team. He followed that up by earning the Kevin Lowe Award this year.

The biggest thing he's learned from his time in the league, Lauzon said, is that it's a big transition.

"When you get to a league from another, it's a big step and you just have to adapt and play your game and trust the process," he said. "That's what I learned from my experience in the Q."

'Trust the process' is a phrase that head coach Mike Sullivan uses constantly, and it's something Lauzon is going to continue doing when he returns to Rouyn-Noranda this fall.

"I think I am in really good hands with the Penguins," he said. "They drafted me for a reason, so just keep playing like I play and I think things will go well if I keep progressing."

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