Lazar was destined for on-ice success — one way or another

If Curtis Lazar had been a little less stubborn, he might just have become the next Elvis Stojko. Or perhaps the second coming of Carolina Hurricanes star Jeff Skinner.

Lazar was destined for on-ice success — one way or another
urtis Lazar puts his jersey on after being selected number seventeen overall in the first round by the Ottawa Senators during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

NEWARK, N.J. — If Curtis Lazar had been a little less stubborn, he just might have become the next Elvis Stojko.

Or perhaps the second coming of Carolina Hurricanes star Jeff Skinner.

You see, the moment that Lazar — selected 17th overall by the Ottawa Senators in Sunday’s NHL entry draft — put his feet into a pair of skates, he was destined for stardom on the ice. One way or another.

The crossroads came at the tender age of four, however, when Lazar was rising through the CanSkate program in Vernon, B.C., at a ridiculous pace.

He was promptly tagged as a future figure skating star, just like Skinner, Carolina’s star 21-year-old winger, who was an Ontario figure skating champion before focusing his full attention on hockey in his early teens.

Not so fast.

We’ll let Karen Lazar, Curtis’s mother, tell the story.

“It was one of those completely natural things when he started skating,” she said, enjoying the moment in a suite overlooking the draft floor at the Prudential Center late Sunday night. “And they wanted him to be a figure skater. They immediately wanted to put him into pairs. But he made me write them a note, saying that he would only go to to the lessons if he could wear a hockey sweater.”

Dave Lazar, Curtis’s father, explains what happened next.

“He completed the CanSkate program in a year, but as soon as he could get that stick in his hands, well, that was it,” he said.

Indeed, there was hockey in his blood. The competitive spirit and the stubborn streak has always been with him. After getting his first taste of junior hockey in Pentincton, B.C. at 15, he went on to the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, where he scored 38 goals and 23 assists during the 2012-13 season.

More than that, however, he has impressed observers with his determination to get to the hardest scoring areas and to do just about everything else — including fighting good friend and 6-foot-5 defenceman Darnell Nurse at a Canadian Hockey League top prospects game last year — for success. The Edmonton Oilers chose Nurse with their first pick Sunday.

“I wanted to leave an impression, but I didn’t know what it would be,” said Lazar, talking a mile a minute moments after being selected by the Senators. “It’s kind of a funny story. During the morning of the pre-game skate, he was looking for someone to fight and then I saw the way things were going during the game and it was time to do something. Darnell is a good friend of mine, but if I have to step up for my teammates, I will do it. I’m not the biggest guy by any means (5-foot-11 and 193 pounds), but it shows I will do anything to win.”

If you’re looking for NHL comparisons, Lazar has been likened to Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown and New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, players who have good offensive skills, are solid defensively and are capable of playing on both the power play and in short-handed situations.

“Those guys are complete players, they have an offensive game to them and they play with an edge,” said Murray. “(Lazar) is not being compared simply to ‘energy’ players in the NHL. He’s compared to guys who have energy, grit and determination, but we also expect them to score dirty goals and skilled goals. That fits the (style) we’re trying to present.”

The Senators were thrilled Lazar was still available when they selected him. On their own scouting lists, they had him rated among the top 10-12 players.

While Lazar had to wait longer to hear his name than some might have expected, it hardly fazed him. After all, it took him an extra day to arrive in New York — his original connecting flight from Toronto on Thursday circled LaGuardia three times before returning to the Ontario capital — meaning he didn’t make it to the Big Apple until late Friday.

His family — mother, father, 16-year old sister Jenna and brothers Ryan, 14, and Corey, 12 — had all arrived in New York earlier, spending the week as tourists before draft weekend.

Dave Lazar joked that it wasn’t a problem if Curtis didn’t make it in time for the draft.

“I told him not to worry about it,” he said. “I told him, ‘if you don’t get here, I’ll just go up on stage and put the jersey on.’’’

There are plenty of laughs in the busy Lazar house. In the weeks leading up the draft, Curtis was slightly unnerved at the prospect of his father being a little too exuberant celebrating the announcement, whenever and wherever he was picked.

“We like to have our fun. I was telling him I was going to do the big double pump or even the sprinkler when his name was announced,” said Dave Lazar. “He was really teasing me lately, saying I was going to take all the attention away. But I didn’t do anything. That was the last thing on his mind. It’s his day.”

Yes, it was.

Lazar isn’t getting ahead of himself and wants to see where he stands alongside pro players before suggesting whether he could make the unlikely jump to the NHL for the 2013-14 season. If he doesn’t stick with the Senators, he’ll go back to Edmonton and he’ll have a good chance of playing for Canada’s world junior team.

“The draft year is behind us now, I can get on with my career and get some guidance from the organization,” he said. “I haven’t played with pro guys, but I want to be there (in the NHL) as soon as I can. My goal is to make it as difficult as I can for them to send me back to junior.”

kwarren@ottawacitizen.com

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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