After breaking records set by Sidney Crosby and Steve Stamkos at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax, Curtis Lazar pretty much became a brand name in hockey circles.
They should have just stitched a bulls-eye crest on his jersey when he played for Team B.C. in the Best Ever Program Under 17 trials in Salmon Arm last July.
Lazar was checked like a suitcase at the camp, and while he didn’t rack up many points, did more than enough to make Team Pacific, announced this week by Hockey B.C.
The team of 11 players from both B.C. and Alberta will compete in the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge, Dec. 29-Jan. 4, in Windsor.
“No, I didn’t do a lot offensively because I was kind of targeted after what happened in Halifax,” said Lazar, 16, of the WHL Edmonton Oil Kings. “It was more just grinding it out and battling hard and I guess I impressed the coaches enough to make the team.”
Lazar, who got in 10 games, including four playoff tilts, with Edmonton last year, is tied for fifth in Oil King points with 6-7-13 through 21 games. He’s playing on the top line with third-year veterans Michael St. Croix of Winnipeg and Dylan Wruck of Saskatoon.
“St. Croix was drafted last year by the Rangers and Wruck had a tryout with San Jose so playing with those guys makes my job easy. I just get open and they find me.”
Lazar’s Oil King roomie Mason Goertzen (they live on an acreage in Sherwood Park) also made Team Pacific, adding his 6-foot, 183-pound frame to the defensive corps.
“The coaches haven’t really told us what kind of team they want, but we’re strong everywhere. We’ve got quite a big defence so we’ll probably be a physical team. Everybody’s from the Western League so we’re used to more speed and hitting.”
Penticton’s Matt Needham (Kamloops Blazers) also made Team Pacific. Needham and Lazar were linemates with the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton last year. Tyson Baillie of the Kelowna Rockets (Fort Saskatchewan product) also made the grade, on the blue line.
Already tabbed as a first-round pick in the 2013 NHL entry draft, the thick 6-foot, 190-pound Lazar is known for superior vision and is tough to knock off the puck.
He’s loving life as a full-time Oil King, a team sitting at 11-7-1-2 going into tonight’s home date with the Prince Albert Raiders.
“It’s a great team to be around,” said Lazar. “Once we start firing on all cylinders, we’ll be one of the top teams. Our fan support is great. Friday night is Military Night and past world junior stars Hall (Taylor) and (Jordan) Eberle will be there.”
Lazar attends morning classes at Salisbury High School and then heads to practice. He’s getting used to the bus trips and will lay his head on a foamy on the floor Saturday night after the Oil Kings face the host Lethbridge Hurricanes.
He will spend Christmas in Vernon with his family and then fly out to Ontario.
Meanwhile, the BCHL Salmon Arm SilverBacks have sent their leading scorer Bryce Gervais to the Penticton Vees to complete a deal which saw forwards Garrett Hendrickson and Myles McCauley head to the Shuswap.
The Vernon Vipers began a three-game road swing Thursday night in Chilliwack against the Chiefs. The Vipers battle the Surrey Eagles Friday night and take on the Langley Rivermen Saturday.
Vernon entertains Penticton Wednesday night and then helps the BCHL celebrate its 50th anniversary with a Friday night special versus Salmon Arm.