ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — Until Hockey Canada hears the word no from the Ottawa Senators they’ll continue to hold out hope for Curtis Lazar.
The Ottawa Senators rookie, who scored his first NHL goal on Monday night, is the last remaining pro player Team Canada has a shot at getting for the 2015 world junior championship. Lazar played on the team last year and was one of the team’s most dependable, versatile forwards.
“The fact that they haven’t said no right now is at least encouraging,” said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations for Hockey Canada. “We remain optimistic. We think that Curtis could be a huge part of this team and obviously being here last year and being a proven winner with his club team. At the end of the day (the Senators) are no different than us – they’re in the business of winning hockey games.”
Lazar, who won the Memorial Cup in May with his Edmonton Oil Kings, was one of the top scorers with his junior team finishing last season with 41 goals and 76 points in 58 WHL games.
On Monday, the Vancouver Canucks decided to keep centre Bo Horvat, 19, in the NHL rather than send him to play for Canada in the 10-day tournament being hosted in Toronto and Montreal.
“It’s disappointing, we were really optimistic with Bo,” said Salmond. “I think ultimately the injury to (forward Zack) Kassian was probably the determining factor for them.”
Newly appointed Senators head coach Dave Cameron coached Canada to a silver medal at the 2011 world junior championships in Buffalo, NY. As a result, said Salmond, Cameron knows better than most the kind of opportunity that comes from playing for Canada.
The Senators have until Dec. 19th to decide Lazar’s fate for the tournament, as that’s the day the NHL roster freeze goes into effect.
Until then, Hockey Canada will keep working the phones to try and persuade the Senators to lend them Lazar’s helping hands.
“We’re going to continue to have those discussions and we’ll have more today,” said Salmond. “We expect after their game against New Jersey (on Wednesday) we’ll know more.”
In the meantime, head coach Benoit Groulx said he’s more than happy with the 25 players they still have in camp to bring home a medal for Canada.
“To be honest we’re comfortable with the players we have here,” said Groulx, who coached Horvat and Lazar as a world junior assistant last year. “My focus is really on this team here and on the players we have. I’m not running behind (the management group) Bruce (Hamilton) or Scott Salmond to ask them about any news on the NHLers. We’re really happy with this group.
“I’m not looking anywhere else right now.”
Canada still has to make three cuts – one defenceman and two forwards – prior to the tournament start on Boxing Day. They will play against the Russia in an exhibition game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Friday night.