If Curtis Lazar needs any help dealing with the pressures of being a top prospect in the 2013 NHL Draft, he certainly doesn’t need to look far.
A member of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Lazar can look across the dressing room at Griffin Reinhart, selected fourth overall by the New York Islanders in 2012.
And Lazar knows how lucky he is to have that experience a stall away.
“That helps a lot,” Lazar said. “Look at Reinhart last year and how high he got picked. Just little tidbits I can get from him and ask him really helps a lot.”
Not that Lazar has needed much help this season. The Vernon, BC product has found the back of the net eight times this season and is on pace for 36 goals. He’s contributing in a much larger role than his rookie season a year ago and it’s that confidence that has propelled Lazar’s early-season success.
“I feel more confident,” he admitted. “Last year was all about getting my feet wet and getting used to the league. Now I’m taking it in stride. It’s still a learning curve for me. I just have to go into each game and even keel throughout the season. I’m looking forward to it.”
Lazar’s also looking forward to a new role on his team – leader. The 17-year-old was named an assistant captain on the Oil Kings, a responsibility he admits is a bit of an adjustment.
“I’m still learning on that front,” he said. “I’m still not tip-top of my game on that yet. I help out the young guys with school or on the ice. I know what they’re going through and I like to help them. I’m playing a bigger role so I have to embrace that.”
Just like Lazar having to embrace the attention of being a heavy hitter in the draft. Fortunately, like his teammates can rely on him, Lazar can turn to his teammates to help him deal with draft day pressures.
With your experiences last year, does it almost feel like you’re a veteran despite playing in your draft year?
I’ve got the leadership role here too helping out the younger guys because I know what they’re going through. It’s all about the confidence. I’m playing a bigger role so I have to embrace that.
Does it feel different playing in your draft year?
The way I handle it is to not worry about it. I’m just playing hockey for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Whatever people want to think off the ice will take care of itself.
Is it difficult to put the whole draft aspect in the back of your mind?
It’s a lot crazier than I expected coming into the season but for me, I just block out the distractions and just focus on my game and have fun because that’s what I love to do. I love to play hockey and have that smile on my face. That’s what drives me.
Has there been a moment where it has been like, ‘Wow, I’m in my draft year now’?
It is getting real that you’re getting closer to your goal but I’m just focused on hockey – it’s another season for me.
Is there a friendly rivalry or just a rivalry in general with Hunter Shinkaruk, who is the other top draft eligible forward from the WHL, or anyone other draft eligibles in general?
There are a lot of guys around the league and I’m always joking around trying to push that friendly competition. There are no friends on the ice but off the ice we’re always poking fun at each other.