With the World Junior Hockey Championship starting up today, it offers us Sens fans an opportunity to see our Ottawa Senators prospects in action on a bigger stage. The Senators have loaned Curtis Lazar to Team Canada, which now gives us three prospects to watch out for during the tournament.
Andreas Englund, Defenseman - Team Sweden
The stay-at-home defenseman has been playing for Djurgården of the Swedish Hockey League. In his first year in the big league, he has been logging second/third pairing minutes most nights. Despite the limited minutes, he leads the defensemen on his team in hits and ranks second in blocked shots. He has also chipped in with a goal and three assists through 30 games this season. Unfortunately, he is third last on his middle-ranked team with a -8 rating. You would hope that he would have a better rating for being a defensive defenseman, but we can attribute some of it to being an 18-year-old rookie getting used to the pro game. It will be great to see Englund playing with the younger players after taking on more experienced players in the SHL. Look for Englund to be responsible in his own zone and to play the body on opposing forwards. He did manage to score in a pre-tournament game on December 23rd in Kingston against team USA, despite his team getting stomped 10-5.
Sweden's Schedule (All times Eastern):
Friday, December 26 at 5:00pm vs. Czech Republic
Saturday, December 27 at 1:00pm vs. Denmark
Monday, December 29 at 5:00pm vs. Russia
Wednesday, December 31 at 1:00pm vs. Switzerland
Nick Paul, Forward - Team Canada
After being somewhat of an unknown coming back to the Senators organization in the Jason Spezza trade, it's looking like they have a solid prospect on their hands. Paul started the season by lighting up the OHL with the North Bay Battalion scoring 19 goals and 15 assists through 27 games. Feared to be a bubble player during Team Canada selection camp, Sens fans were glad that Paul got to stick around and made the squad. In pre-tournament action Paul has been playing alongside Nick Petan and Robby Fabbri, two players who are also well above point-per-game players in the WHL and OHL respectively. On Monday, Paul also signed an entry-level contract with the Senators. What a great week! Look for him to be a shooter on his line while playing alongside a pair of playmakers. After lighting it up in the OHL, I'm looking forward to seeing him play among the best of his age group at the World Junior tournament. He's a big player (6'3 221 lbs) so hopefully he will be able to use his size to his advantage to help get Canada to the top.
Curtis Lazar, Forward - Team Canada
He played three years in junior with the Edmonton Oil Kings, and was a dominant force on a very talented team last year. He helped his team win both the WHL championship and the Memorial Cup. Popular belief is that Lazar doesn't have anything left to prove in junior and after showing that he can skate with the big boys in the NHL, Senators management chose to keep him for the season. He came close to potting his first pro goal on numerous occasions, including one that Zack Smith "stole" from him at the home opener. It took until his 26th game before he found the back of the net and he had quite the celebration after getting the monkey off his back. Lazar, among other Team Canada World Junior veterans, will be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder after finishing out of the medals last year. He played a big role in last year's squad, racking up three goals and four assists through seven games.
After being released from the Sens in order to play in the tournament, it didn't take long for Canada's coaching staff to hand him the captain's C. I believe that he'll excel in his new role as captain. In pre-tournament action, he has been playing alongside Nick Ritchie and projected 2015 top pick Connor McDavid. Look for Lazar to play powerplay, even strength, and penalty kill. I'm hopeful that the World Junior tournament will help with Lazar's development, gain more confidence, and show us that he belongs in the NHL.
Canada's Schedule (All times Eastern):
Friday, December 26 at 8:00pm vs. Slovakia
Saturday, December 27 at 8:00pm vs. Germany
Monday, December 29 at 8:00pm vs. Finland
Wednesday, December 31 at 4:00pm vs. USA