Why Loaning Curtis Lazar To Team Canada Is The Right Move


As Senshot’s Jack Leiper reported earlier today, Curtis Lazar will be headed to the World Junior Hockey Championships next week to play for team Canada as he was loaned by the Ottawa Senators. For a while, it seemed like Ottawa was content with keeping Lazar with the team for the whole season, but obviously there was a shift in thinking recently. Lazar of course wanted to stay with the Senators, but at the same time he knows that this could be good for his development.

There will be some people disappointed to see Lazar head off with team Canada, saying that Ottawa will miss him for those few weeks, but there are plenty of good things that come from this decision. Lazar hasn’t had the breakout season like many thought he was going to have, but he has still been solid for a 19 year old. However, with one goal to his name, it was quite easy to make the decision as his presence on the fourth line should not be missed too much.

I like having Lazar in the lineup, but without him there is an easy replacement in Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Of course, Pageau was already up with the team before Lazar was loaned, but perhaps now he will get a larger role with the team centring the third line on occasion. It will be a good test to see how Pageau responds after not playing in the NHL at all this season up until this point. I think he’s an NHL player right now, and his production can certainly match (if not exceed) Lazar’s right now.

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Also, even with Pageau added to the lineup, Ottawa still only has 12 skaters (with Chris Neil and Zack Smith on the IR). That means another forward will most likely come up with the big club. Some candidates include Shane Prince, Derek Grant, and Matt Puempel. Out of those three, I would like to see Prince the most, as he certainly deserves an audition at this point. He was drafted the same year as Mika Zibanejad and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, yet he hasn’t played in an NHL game.

Prince is second on the team in scoring, with 21 points in 25 games, and has played well while in the AHL. I would love to see what he can do, as he has some real upside and he could be a big upgrade over some other third line options. The second most likely option is Derek Grant, who has a ceiling of a third line player, but has played decent in his short stints with Ottawa the last few years. He has yet to score in his 25 career NHL games, so he is obviously limited offensively. He’s also 24 years old, so he is what he is essentially.

Matt Puempel also has not played in the NHL yet, but I would think the chances of him being called up right now are slim. Prince is producing a bit more than Puempel, so I would think he gets a shot first. I would not be surprised to see Grant called up just because of his defensive capabilities, however I’d much rather see Prince or Puempel up with the team. The only way to know what kind of players Ottawa has is to see them in real game action. Prince and Puempel both have lots of skill, and they (specifically Prince) deserve some time in the NHL.

There have been rumblings that Prince is unhappy with the organization as well (most likely because of not being called up), and one easy way to fix that is to let him play. So with Lazar out, there are at least three or four solid candidates that can replicate his production, plus the team is able to see some new players that can help in the future.

Ottawa should be just fine without Lazar for this short span of time. Furthermore, not only will the team survive, Lazar himself should benefit greatly. Apparently he has been told that he will be playing with whiz kid Connor McDavid to start the tournament, which will only make him better. He will be one of the oldest and best players at the tournament, and if all goes well he should be near the top of the scoring race. Last year he recorded seven points in seven games, and with even better line mates and a year more of development, he should be able to dominate.

Not only will the team survive, Lazar himself should benefit greatly

Not only should Lazar be able to play well, there’s also a chance he will be team captain according to Bob McKenzie. Even if he is not captain, he should at least be an assistant captain which is still fantastic. That should do nothing but good things for his confidence, and when he comes back maybe he’s even more matured than he already is. There’s no reason why Lazar can’t have a fantastic tournament, and the experiences he has should make him a better overall player.

Lazar being loaned gives other players in the organization an audition, it should help his confidence, but there’s also another good reason, albeit it’s less important as the other two. Bob McKenzie also said yesterday that with Lazar coming to the team, that might make a defensive centre like Frederik Gauthier expendable instead of someone more offensive like Senators prospect Nick Paul. In case you didn’t know, Gauthier is the Toronto Maple Leafs first round pick from 2013. So essentially by adding one Ottawa prospect to team Canada another one stays too, and a Leafs prospect could get cut.

It’s not as if Gauthier is imperative to team Canada’s success either. He has only 14 points in 15 games in the QMJHL right now, and has never got a point a game in his junior career. He shouldn’t be on the team anyway, but it makes it a bit sweeter that he is a Leafs prospect, doesn’t it?

In the end, he will only miss about two and a half weeks of NHL action, which isn’t very much. However, there are many positive ripple effects because of this decision. I’m glad Ottawa made the right decision to loan Lazar even if he wanted to stay. Hopefully he comes back with a Gold medal around his neck and he is an even better player.