The Professional Hockey Writers Association have begun voting for various awards after the announcement of the end of the regular season late last month. While the finalists for the Norris, Lady Byng, Hart, Selke and others will be announced in a few weeks, each of the 31 clubs revealed their nominees for the Bill Masterton Trophy on Wednesday and the Buffalo Sabres announced that forward Curtis Lazar is their selection.
The 25-year-old native of British Columbia was selected 17th overall by Ottawa in 2013 and had a pair of solid seasons with the Senators before slumping and being dealt to Calgary in 2017. Lazar played most of the 2018-19 season with the Flames AHL affiliate in Stockton, CA and signed a one-year contract with Buffalo last July.
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After impressing Sabres head coach Ralph Kreuger at training camp and putting up good numbers with Rochester in the American Hockey League (6 goals, 8 assists in 18 games), the versatile forward was recalled a couple of times early in the season before finally sticking with the Sabres in December.
In 38 games, Lazar had 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) playing mostly a checking role up the middle, but also provided a bit of energy and physicality to the Sabres forward group.
“He has that opportunity to be the leader of a line that is hard to play against, but can also defend against top lines of the other team,” Krueger said to Sabres beat reporter Bill Hoppe in January. “So that can release some of the ice time of our top lines, especially here at home, to free them up, to play against possibly weaker lines of the opposition. Curtis is giving us that. He’s working hard on his faceoffs. He gives us a powerful right-handed draw opportunity, and he’s learning every day better to play within our defensive structure we want and our principles and concepts we need.”
Lazar is one of a dozen Sabres players who are arbitration-eligible restricted free agents or unrestricted free agents after the season and based on his contribution at a league-minimum $700,000 salary, it is likely that he will be one player that Kreuger and GM Jason Botterill will want to bring back.