Whether it was a manager or a fan, anyone who watched Curtis Lazar's performance for Canada at the World Juniors assuredly came away from the experience impressed with how well Lazar fared.
By extension, Lazar's also enjoyed an excellent first half of his Western Hockey League season. In 30 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Lazar has tallied 22 goals and 41 points.
After listening to GM Bryan Murray and Eugene Melnyk's conference call with the media on TSN 1200 yesterday, Lazar's play has essentially help earn him 'untouchable' status when it comes to trade negotiations:
"Well, we’re not going to give up a lot of young pieces. Again, it depends. Curtis Lazar was mentioned by Mr. Melnyk, well, we’re not moving Curtis Lazar, I can tell you at this point in time. But, we do have a number of players that probably are deserving of playing some games, or playing in the NHL that may not get a chance because of our numbers up here that we would talk to teams about for a more veteran-type player. But very definitely, one of the priorities here for us has been to draft, stock and develop our players to make sure that our organization is good for a lot of years. I think that’s the position that we’re getting ourselves into. We’ve got some good goaltenders coming. I think we’ve got a couple of young defencemen that look like real keepers and there’s a number of forwards in Binghamton right now, and as I say, Lazar in junior, so we would make the right common sense trade there without robbing what would be our future.”
Lazar's play has also earned him the appreciation of third party talent evaluators like ESPN Insider's Corey Pronman, who included Curtis in his midseason Top 50 Drafted NHL Prospects list (note: it's behind a paywall).
On Pronman's midseason list, which excludes all players who are currently on an NHL roster, reflected Lazar's notable movement in progression.
I was skeptical going into draft season about Lazar's offensive upside, but he's grown on me since. I don't think he's a dynamic player with the puck, but he finds a way to be a positive force on every shift. Lazar is a really good skater, who gives it his all on both ends of the ice. He makes good reads and is a quality finisher.
In fact, Lazar was only listed as an honorable mention in Pronman's Preseason Top 100 Drafted NHL Prospects list and now he is listed as Pronman's 20th highest prospect.
Keep in mind, Pronman noted that half of his preseason Top 50 were players who are have graduated from his list because they are on a NHL roster and are now ineligible.
In other words, there are still around 20 to 25 prospects that Pronman could put ahead of Lazar, but Lazar's play has helped him leap approximately 50 other prospects in the rankings. Suffice it to say, that's a pretty damn impressive result for a player who Pronman listed as the 29th best prospect in his draft class.
Lazar still hasn't played a professional game, but Pierre Dorion's amateur staff has proven that they can cultivate good players regardless of where the team is picking.
Could be Lazar be the latest mid to late first round gem that this organization has found?
Time will tell, but it's pretty nails to see Lazar already rewarding the organization by boosting his stock through some phenomenal play.