November 20 2012 08:31PM
Pre-season rankings had Curtis Lazar among the ten best prospects in the world among 2013 eligibles. Just a few months later, Lazar is barely in the top 10 in his own league. What happened?
Curtis Lazar appeared on Bob McKenzie's pre-season top prospects list (#9 overall) and the verbal from Craig Button was very strong:
- Curtis has the puck skills of top scorers. He can beat you with a shot from 35 feet out or by skating past a defender given the opportunity. He has excellent offensive instincts and a great release on his shot. He is very good in traffic and he is a player who bears down in the scoring areas to get his opportunities. His skating is very good and his quickness may be better than his speed, but he's a guy who can play at a high pace and tempo. He gets involved and will assert physically to win the puck and gain advantages. He is good all around player who finds a way to impact the game in many ways, even physically. He has excellent playing sense and reads and anticipates the play very well, which combined with his skill, makes him very hard to keep in check. Comparable Style: Patrick Sharp
This assessment came after a solid year on the WHL champion Oil Kings (63, 20-11-31) and a playoff run (20, 8-11-19) that projected Lazar into the stratosphere. His size (6.00, 189) and late spring surge caught the eyes of scouts everywhere, and many Oiler fans (this one included) suggested Lazar might end up being that big 2-way center that has been so elusive over the years.
Today, the Central Scouting Bureau released their preliminary rankings and Lazar stands 8th in the WHL! An amazing fall, if you assume McKenzie's list and the CSB list are cousins (which they are not, more on that later).
WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?
Although Lazar's totals so far this season (22, 8-6-14) are superior to the same period a year ago (22, 5-7-12) and he's hitting everything in sight (whenever I'm watching him), there are differing opinions about Lazar's 12-13 season. Some see the CSB's rankings as being completely unfair, while others suggest that while the number is a surprise there are elements of Lazar's game that have become stagnant.
Specifically, offense. Last spring's goals have gone away and the line drives are finding leather. What's more, the dizzying line combinations from the coaching staff have Lazar playing without Henrik Samuelsson. Guy Flaming was on Team 1260 this afternoon talking to Corey Graham about the chemistry between the two, and as it happens they started tonight's game on a line with Stephane Legault.
WHAT ABOUT THE CSB?
In the summer of 1975, the National Hockey League hired Jack Button as director of the Central Scouting Service. It has been called “bureau” from time to time and you often see CSS or CSB in print, but it’s all the same organization.
The July 1975 Hockey News: “NHL president Clarence Campbell said Button will be located in Montreal. Button, who is 36, will be preoccupied with developing and administering the NHL’s central scouting computer operation for all 18 teams. He will hire 8 scouts to work with him.” CSS’s role in the National Hockey League scouting season goes from important (early) to pretty much useless (the final rankings) as teams have made their own lists.
Central's lists--preliminary or final--are not considered to be strong predictors of how the draft will go--that's why God created Bob McKenzie.
So, while the Lazar slotting isn't as big a deal as it might be if Bob McKenzie had him sliding, there's probably a bit of worry over the young man and his develepment.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Beware of small sample sizes and trust that all will be revealed. That scouting report supplied by Craig Button married to McKenzie's list tells me this young man will be gone by the middle of round one 2013.