Two seasons ago, the then-Ottawa 67's goalie was a showstopper during the world junior championship, garnishing his showing as the tourney's top goaltender for Team Czech Republic with some crowd-pleasing celebrations. Since that time, the Canadian Hockey League has proscribed chosing goalies in the import draft, which led to Moscow native Leo Lazarev and his family establishing residency in Ontario so he could enter the OHL priority selection draft. On Saturday, Lazarev, who has a personal flair that might evoke memories of Mrazek, was the second goalie off the board when the 67's took him in the second round, No. 24 overall. Selecting the Junior B Waterloo (Ont.) Siskins puck-stopper also came during a run of early picks used in goalies during the first priority selection since the import goalie embargo was enacted.
"In the past we've always drafted goalies from the fifth round on and relied on our European picks," 67's coach-GM Chris Byrne said. "We've had a decent run. With that avenue closed off, we thought it was really important to get depth at that position. For us, looking at our depth chart, it was definitely needed ... Having too much goaltending is a position we want to be in. It may be a change in philosophies for us."
"He's definitely got personality, he's fun to watch in the net," Byrne said of Lazarev, who turns 17 in July and has led Waterloo to a 3-2 series lead over Stratford in a Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League quarter-final. "It's hard to describe but when you see him play, you'll know he is a goalie. In his loop this year, his combined save percentage was near .930. There have been some goaltenders playing in our league right now who have also put up numbers, maybe not quite as good as this kid, but [the GOJHL] is definitely a league where goaltenders have come out of."Read More »from Ottawa 67′s Leo Lazarev pick reflects OHL reaction to import goalie ban