The Ottawa Senators announced today that they have agreed to loan forward Curtis Lazar to Team Canada to participate in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship co-hosted in Toronto and Montréal. Lazar has played in 27 games for the Sens this season and is fresh off recording his first career NHL goal this past Monday versus the Buffalo Sabres.
Curtis Lazar met with the media today after the team's off-ice practice. Here's what he had to say...
On the decision:
I had a good talk with management this morning and they feel that's going to be best for my long-term development. It a great opportunity for myself.
On if he had any say in the matter:
I don't know if I was given a choice but I definitely had a say in it. I definitely respect the approach that Bryan Murray had with the situation. He let me say my two bits and what I felt was going to be right and they countered with what they thought. We both agreed on something that feels like it's going to be the best for me.
On the expectations:
I want to lead and I feel I can really do that. We're on home soil here and the expectation is for us to win gold.
On Canada hosting the tournament:
I can't even get ready to wrap my head around what it's going to be like playing in Montreal and Toronto. It's probably going to be the only time I get cheered for in those two buildings so I can enjoy that aspect.
On when he will join Team Canada:
I'm going to fly out there tomorrow night and meet with the guys. I don't think I'll skate or anything but I'll be right back here and hopefully able to suit up and put on a show for the Sens fans here on Sunday.
On the benefits he thinks this opportunity gives him:
Being able to compete on this level and handle the puck more, play on the powerplay and really be a "go-to" guy is something I haven't done for awhile. It's going to be good for me and the plan is to get that confidence, come back here, hopefully contribute and have a good second half of the season here in Ottawa.
Sens head coach Dave Cameron also spoke with the media today about Lazar being loaned to Team Canada. Here are his thoughts...
On losing Lazar from the lineup:
I think it's a "win-win". I think it's very good that Curtis is going to get a chance to go and play in an event where he's going to be a prominent player and play prominent minutes. We will miss him but in terms of big picture, it's best for the organization.
On how this could improve Lazar as an NHL player:
He's going to play a more prominent role. With us he's in the bottom six, playing a "safe" role. There he's going to be a "go-to" guy in a real world-class tournament on a huge stage so all those factors are going to make him a better player.
On the potential benefits of playing in the WJHC in Canada:
The longer he's with us he's going to take on a leadership role too because he's one of those leadership-type guys but the more experience that you can gain and the bigger the stage and the more intensity of it...it's going to benefit him long-term for sure.
On Lazar's reaction:
Once the decision was made and we said "Now do you want to go?", there was no doubt in my mind that he wants to go.
Sens TV also grabbed reactions and thoughts from Senators forwards Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan which you can watch below...
We were also able to catch up with a few of Lazar's other current teammates who offered their thoughts on the transaction...
On the decision to loan Lazar to Team Canada:
He's played in the World Juniors so he knows what it's all about. He was kind of looking at it as a "win-win": he'd either get to go represent his country again or continue playing in the NHL which he's obviously enjoying and having a lot of fun with. So I know he's going to go and make the most of it.
On the benefits it could have to his game:
That's probably the biggest reason for it and to continue developing. He's been unbelievable for us in terms of being reliable and being able to play in a defensive role so maybe this tournament can help him continue to gain some scoring confidence as well.
Thoughts on Lazar being loaned to Team Canada:
Curtis is going to go out there and have a chance to dominate. He's got 25 or so NHL games worth of experience so he should be able to relay that and hopefully be a guy that can lead Team Canada to some success.
On comparing his WJHC experience to what Lazar will go through:
I think with Curtis going to the World Juniors after playing in the NHL now and then to come back here and play it's a bit of a different situation than for me. I started off here for 9 games then I went back to Sweden before going to the World Juniors and then finally back home to Sweden again. So I think it's a bit different but obviously a memory you keep for the rest of your life.
On the his reaction to the news:
We've become pretty good friends and we hang out on the road a lot. I was really happy for him to get his first goal the other night and so as long as he's happy, we're happy for him.
On the potential benefits returning the the WJHC could have for Lazar:
Hopefully more confidence. When he got his first goal here I think he can put that aside now and just play. Now he's going to get a lot bigger role and a lot more playing time and get to be a leader out there. So hopefully he can bring that back. He's a great player and he just needs to relax and play his game.
Lazar seems to be in line to play during Team Canada's preliminary game versus Team Sweden this Sunday at Canadian Tire Centre but we'll pass along confirmation either way when it's announced. Tickets for the game are still available however and you can grab yours here: ottsens.com/Road2WJC.
We're also giving away 4 tickets to the game on Twitter if you're feeling lucky...