OTTAWA — Even as he nursed a minor injury, Ottawa Senators rookie prospect Curtis Lazar was sitting on a great big secret.
He had agreed in principle to a three-year entry-level contract with the Senators and waited patiently a few days for the National Hockey League team to make the announcement official. When the news was finally released Tuesday, Lazar was ecstatic.
“It’s huge,” he said during a conference call on what was a training camp off-day for the Senators. “It’s a big thing getting that off my chest and just letting me play hockey. Regardless of where I end up playing, my focus is on being a better hockey player.”
Lazar, a centre/right-winger drafted 17th overall by the Senators on June 30, scored 38 goals and 23 assists last season with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League. He played impressively for the Senators during the four-team rookie tournament in London earlier this month, but he received an undisclosed minor injury five minutes into his first scrimmage at main camp and has been off the ice since.
Lazar said he hoped to be back on the ice Wednesday and, if all went well, could play Thursday when the Senators play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a preseason game at Canadian Tire Centre.
It appears as if Lazar will eventually head back to Edmonton for another junior season (the pro contract only kicks in after he has played 10 NHL regular-season games), considering he’s essentially fighting with Mike Hoffman, Cory Conacher, Mark Stone, Shane Prince and Matt Puempel for a spot on the Senators’ second line. However, the 18-year-old is enthused about the fact the team still wants to see him in pre-season game action.
“I’ve got a lot to prove and I’m still the youngest guy here and I’m really proud of that,” he said.
In a statement released by the Senators, general manager Bryan Murray said the club was “trying to get our best players tied up, and he is certainly one of the guys of the future for this organization. We’re very, very happy to get him signed at this point.”
Four dreams on hold
While Lazar was relishing still in NHL training camp, the Senators assigned four others to their junior clubs on Tuesday: goalies François Brassard (Quebec, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) and Chris Dreidger (Calgary, Western Hockey League); along with defenceman Ben Harpur (Guelph, Ontario Hockey League) and forward Vincent Dunn (Gatineau, QMJHL).
There are still 52 players at Senators training camp.