Friday, October 19, 2007

Meet Lucic

By the end of the night, Lucic bore a strawberry-sized welt on his left cheek, the product of a straight right by Ivanans. But Lucic also had the puck from his first NHL goal, the satisfaction from his team's 8-6 win, and the admiration of watchers around the league.

"He stood up to a pretty big guy," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "I thought he did a great job. He earned a lot of respect from guys around the league."
Great piece from Fluto Shinzawa (the only hockey writer named Fluto, as one of my colleagues pointed out).

As the article notes, Milan Lucic is one of six junior-aged players still playing in the NHL this season, but unlike the others (Pat Kane, Sam Gagner, etc.), he's the only one who wasn't a first-round pick. No, Lucic was drafted by Boston 50th overall in 2006, picked there as much for his work with his fists as the nine goals and 19 points he manged that year in junior.

My introduction to Lucic came in May of this year, when I took a whirlwind trip to the Memorial Cup final in Vancouver. Lucic's hometown Vancouver Giants squared off against the Medicine Hat Tigers, and he was a force from the puck drop, getting in an early fight and laying a few big hits. He finished the tournament with seven points in five games, and joined some nice company when he received the Stafford Smythe Trophy as Mem Cup MVP (other winners include Stan Smyl, Dale Hawerchuk, Steve Chiasson, Scott Niedermayer, Darcy Tucker, Shane Doan, Nick Boynton, Brad Richards, Derek Roy, Corey Perry and Alex Radulov).

At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Lucic would standout in any junior hockey setting, but he also sort of lumbers around the ice, skating with a distinct hunch caused by a rare medical condition. Even still, he's as tough as they come, and was just 18 when the Giants won the Cup.

Now, he's only getting fourth-line minutes in Boston, so it remains to be seen if he stays in the NHL. Given the Bruins' hot start, and his contributions, he may be one of the few 19-year-olds who is actually ready to play at this level.

And if not, expect to see him banging bodies on Canada's world junior team this January.

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At 4:54 a.m., October 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for Lucic! Always try to follow the Team Canada and WHL boys.

At 9:17 a.m., October 19, 2007, Anonymous BDH said...

He dropped 'em with Tarnasky last night too. Kevin Paul Dupont's columns in the Globe a starting to feel like a one man campaign for the kid to stay in the bigs. And given the state of the Bruins, it's probably a good idea.

At 10:21 a.m., October 19, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

I watched the first period of the Bruins before the Leafs played, and Lucic's fight sparked a huge offensive flurry by Boston. As soon as he beat Tarnasky into submission the Bruins came out like a team possessed.

At 12:35 p.m., October 19, 2007, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

I'm torn on Lucic (one of my fave player, btw).

I want him back on the Giants so our team can have another big run. The Giants are doing great, but could always use their captain. Also, Lucic needs time to develop his offensive game some more.

As it is, Lucic isn't getting much in the way of ice time (9 mins a night), but is certainly making an impact with his fists and his checking ability. I love how Bruins fans have taken to him so well.

Lucic could easily stay in the NHL, but I wonder if it'll forever hamper his offensive game. It's a real picke, that's for shuriken.

At 1:51 p.m., October 19, 2007, Blogger Doogie said...

Lucic seems like one of those lunchbucket, gritty, come-out-swinging guys they had a half-dozen or so of the last time this team was consistently worth a damn. No wonder the fans love him.

At 4:20 p.m., October 19, 2007, Blogger Bruce said...

Lucic was gigantic for the Giants at the Mem Cup. He (or probably his style) did less to catch my eye during the few periods I watched of the Super (sic) Series, but he seems tailor-made for the pro game, even with the spine curvature that has reduced him to a mere 6'4. Fwiw, HF has him ranked as a 7.0 C prospect, hardly in keeping with his early arrival in the NHL.

You make an interesting point about him potentially being a rare second-rounder to make the NHL as an underager. Last year Marc-Edouard Vlasic did so, and back in 2003 another Bruin, Patrice Bergeron, accomplished the very unlikely feat of making the bigs in his draft year. Can't think of any other post-first-rounders who've made the bigs as underagers in recent years, but I don't follow that stuff religiously. I'd be interested to see a list.

At 6:26 p.m., October 19, 2007, Blogger Aaron said...

I'd be wary. It seems like the media around the Bruins jump all over any 4th line banger type who can put up a couple points every once in a while. I'm not saying he can't play in the NHL or that there's no value in 4th line banger types, but just be careful what you try to build him up into.

At 6:40 p.m., October 19, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I don't think anyone's saying he's a world beater, but even to make the NHL at 19 is pretty impressive. He did put up a point a game with the best team in junior hockey last season, so this isn't Colton Orr (or whoever else you're thinking of).

At 9:12 p.m., October 19, 2007, Blogger Aaron said...

The Bruins want to sell old time physical, aggressive hockey to their quickly dwindling fan base. They desperately, DESPERATELY want to find another Cam Neely. It's almost like they need to hire Pitino just so he can hold a press conference and remind everyone that "Cam Neely isn't walking through that door folks. Ray Bourque and Phil Esposito are not walking through that door."

On a totally unrelated note, how sick are Toews and Kane? Any chance the NHL is smart enough to capitalize on such a great story in a major American market? Imagine how much we'd be reading if the Rangers had youngsters like this.


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