Perserverence, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
These are the qualities the Pro Hockey Writers Association looks for when selecting the recipient of the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy each year. The Buffalo Sabres believe Salmon Arm’s Curtis Lazar embodies these virtues.
Lazar, 25, entered the NHL as a first-round draft pick in 2013 when he signed with the Ottawa Senators. He became a Calgary Flame partway through the 2016-2017 campaign but spent almost all of the 2018-2019 season playing for their farm team.
After he entered free agency, the Sabres picked him up last July but, following their fall camp, he was sent down to play with the Rochester Americans in the AHL. Lazar came out strong for Rochester, contributing nine points in his first 11 games with the team. He was recalled back to Buffalo in November and found the mesh on a thrilling breakaway goal in his debut with the New York State team.
After more shuffling between the Buffalo and Rochester rosters, Lazar found a full-time niche with the Sabres in the second half of the NHL season.
“He embraced a role as a physical checking presence and was relied upon to win opening draws at the start of overtime,” a statement on the Sabres’ website reads.
Lazar racked up five goals and five assists in 38 games with Buffalo, which amounts to the highest points and goals per game totals of his career. He also had a career-high 51.2 face-off percentage and an average of 11:50 ice time which was his highest since the 2015-2016 season.
“I’ve been that player before,” Lazar said in January.
“I’ve done it at every level except the NHL. Again, with me, I’ve always established that defensive game, first to build that trust and get that ice time, and then build on the offense. It’s nice to put in there and be relied upon in all situations.”
This gritty comeback-season inspired Buffalo to put Lazar up as their nominee for the Masterson trophy. The winner is selected by a poll of the Pro Hockey Writers association. If he wins, Lazar will be the third Sabre to bring home the trophy, joining Don Luce in 1975 and Pat LaFontaine in 1995.