Young forward healthy and happy to be on training-camp ice with Flames
After only three days, Curtis Lazar can report that training camp with the Calgary Flames has gone 100% better than last year’s training camp with the Ottawa Senators.
“Well ... I’m participating this year, so that’s different,” the 22-year-old Kelowna resident said with a chuckle.
Towards the end of the 2016 off-season, Lazar had been stricken with mononucleosis and was forced to miss the entire Senators training camp and a portion of the 2016-17 NHL season.
When he returned, the former Edmonton Oil Kings star desperately tried to re-gain his conditioning, and when he was recalled from the Senators’ American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y., he never really fit into the team’s plans moving forward.
Enter the Calgary Flames, who struck a deal with the Senators at the 2016-17 NHL trade deadline.
“I feel like I belong here and I’m in a good spot mentally,” said Lazar after the Flames’ second ice-time of training camp on Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“I can go out there and be myself. I think I showed that in the first ice session of how assertive I want to be. I’m skating well and feeling strong on my feet.”
That’s likely because Lazar reported to camp 10 lb. heavier, having gained all the weight he lost after having mono and added muscle onto his 6-foot-1 frame.
“I’ve put in the work this summer,” Lazar said. “Everyone says, ’Oh you’re in the best shape of your life.’ Just staying healthy was a big jump for myself. I’m ready to go.”
The centre is trying to make an impression, and, with a few spots among the Flames forward group, there’s a good chance he could crack the roster.
Frankly, that jump has been a long time coming for Lazar who was once a point-producing star in junior and, as the 17th overall pick of the Senators in 2013, has never really had the same success at the NHL level.
“I want to be the player I was back in junior and at the start of my NHL career,” said Lazar who, prior to coming to the Flames, had scored only 12 goals and 24 assists in 176 NHL games.
But, hey, that’s what the pre-season is for, and the Flames kick things off Monday in a split-squad games against the Edmonton Oilers at the Saddledome (7 p.m.) and at Rogers Centre (7 p.m.).
“The practices are just about getting the footspeed down, but you really don’t know where you’re at until you get into pressure situations against guys that are the same calibre,” Lazar said. “You’re not just taking it easy against your buddies. You’ll get your brain going in a game like Monday against the Oilers.” @Kristen_Odland