Lazar changes mindset

Vernon’s Curtis Lazar is shooting for 30 goals with the defending WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings. - Photo submitted
Vernon’s Curtis Lazar is shooting for 30 goals with the defending WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Curtis Lazar of the Edmonton Oil Kings was over-thinking things early in the Western Hockey League season.

Already projected as a first-round pick by NHL Central Scouting a year ago, his stock rose when the Oil Kings claimed the WHL title and played in the Memorial Cup.

He was slow out of the gate in year two and after reading his own head, made some adjustments and is looking towards the finish line with some goals in mind.

“From December on, I’ve been playing very well,” he told me, just before settling in for a two-hour pre-game nap Friday at noon. “I got off to a slow start because I was worrying too much (about his draft status) but then I realized they were just peoples’ opinions. You can go in the first round or seventh round and still play in the show.”

Lazar, who turns 18 in early February, pulled the hat trick last Sunday in a 3-0 win over the Medicine Hat Tigers. He is rated 26th – the 17th forward – in the NHL mid-term rankings for North American skaters.

Toss in the Europeans and he could be chosen at the entry draft, June 30, in New Jersey, anywhere from late-first to mid-second round. In any case, he will become the property of an NHL team with two years of Major Junior left.

“Early on in the season, I was trying to do something special every night, get the wow factor going instead of just playing my game. Right now, my goal is to get to 30 (goals).”

A 6-foot, 198-pounder who loves to hit, is a relentless forechecker and enters the dirty areas for scoring chances, Lazar made sure the scouts knew he was in the rink during the Canadian Hockey League Prospects Game Wednesday night in Halifax.

Lazar played for Team Orr, 3-0 winners over Team Cherry, and enjoyed several strong shifts. He also took on 6-foot-5, 192-pounder Darnell Nurse of the Soo Greyhounds in a second-period scrap.

“I just noticed I wasn’t generating any offence and it’s all about getting noticed so I took on one of the bigger guys and I think I held my own,” chuckled Lazar.

Lazar also got in the face of Team Cherry goalie and buddy Tristan Jarry, an Oil King net detective and Delta product who earned game MVP.

“I wanted to get one on him so bad. We were trash talking before and during the game. He’s a great goalie. We played spring hockey with the Vancouver Selects and we were with B.C. in the Canada Winter Games (gold medal winners) so we’ve been good friends for a few years. He’s almost too laid back. He never gets rattled after giving up a goal.”

Jarry, who Lazar said had hoped to get a run of games with the Oil Kings until Team Canada released veteran Lauren Brossoit before the world juniors, leads the WHL with a 1.68 GAA.

Lazar, who as a 16-year-old with Team B.C. broke Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos’ scoring records, compiled 20 goals and 31 points last year as a Dub rookie. He added another 19 points in 20 playoff tilts.

After Friday night’s home game against Medicine Hat, he was at 19 goals and 32 points with 16 games remaining. He had eight powerplay snipes.

Lazar spent the Christmas break in Vernon taking in some of his three siblings’ Christmas concerts and chilling with friends He says the Oil Kings are prepared to battle heavyweights like the Calgary Hitmen and Prince Albert Raiders for the Eastern Conference crown.

And getting captain and defenceman Griffin Reinhart back from the New York Islanders’ camp Friday will only enhance their depth.

“He wasn’t very happy about it, but with him, we have eight dee who could be regulars very easy,” said Lazar, who was chosen second overall in the 2010 Bantam draft. The fun-loving winger-centre gets to Rexall Place around 4:15 before evening games to stretch and tape sticks (no soccer for this guy), loves going against fellow Vernon product Cole Sanford and the Tigers.

“Last week we played them and he got a regular shift and played well. He’s my best friend so it’s always a thrill to play against him.”

Lacrosse Tigers on life support

They have a pulse, but the Vernon Tigers’ roar is hardly deafening with the 2013 Okanagan Senior Lacrosse League season on the horizon.

Longtime Tiger Casey Sherriff says the Cats are low on player numbers and volunteers.

“I mean, if we get the players to come out, then our executive will come together along with that. There is a rich tradition of lacrosse in the Okanagan with us and Armstrong, and the years of battle could unfortunately come to a end.

“We’ve suffered from players going up north to work and the lack of Junior Tigers willing to move up the ranks.”

If you are interested in playing senior C boxla, get a hold of Sherriff at:

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