The Second City Hockey staff will be profiling players who could be available at the No. 11 spot in the 2021 NHL Draft, where the Blackhawks will make their first-round selection. The draft starts Friday, June 23.
The reigning two-time Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning prove one thing: you can never score too many goals. While the Lightning are also focused on the defensive end — see the fact they protected four defensemen in the expansion draft — their high-powered offense has more than helped them secure back-to-back titles and become one of the best teams of the salary cap era.
The Blackhawks have one great goal scorer on the roster in Alex DeBrincat. Dominik Kubalik will likely bounce back next season ro a level similar to his rookie effort. Patrick Kane has never had much trouble scoring goals. But beyond those three, they’re a little bit lacking.
Chaz Lucius is a player who can help fix that, one of the best goal scorers in this year’s draft and a player with the best stats of the US National Team Development Program (USNTDP) since Cole Caulfield in terms of shooting.
Age: 18 (May 2, 2003)
Hometown: Grant, MN
Weight: 172 pounds
Team: US National Team (USDP/USHL)
NHL Central Scouting (NHL): No. 12 North American skater
Elite Prospects: No. 17
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): No. 8
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): No. 7
Cam Robinson (Dobber Prospects): No. 14
Craig Button (TSN): No. 16
Lucius is one of the best goal scorers in this year’s draft, accomplishing a feat in the USHL accomplished by Caufield — who was just a force to be reckoned with during the Canadiens’ run to the Final — in his draft year: Lucius had a higher number of goals scored than games played with the USNTDP.
Part of the problem is that Lucius was limited to just 12 games, 25 altogether with 13 games from the USNTDP, due to a knee injury. That complicates where Lucius may be drafted, as teams may be uncomfortable with his condition. However, his play speaks for itself, and in his 25 combined games this season, Lucius scored 26 goals. He has one of the best shots in this draft, one of the best releases, and can generate shot pressure.
Everywhere else, however, Lucius is ... a question mark. He’s not great defensively. He’s not a great playmaker. But when he’s on the puck and when he’s shooting, he’s fantastic. There are also questions about Lucius’s skating, but there were questions about DeBrincat’s skating and he’s doing perfectly fine now. Skating and defense can be refined, a natural gift like Lucius’s scoring is a rarity.
Lucius can play a good transition game and find his way through a crowded neutral zone, both of which help with his goal-scoring prowess. Lucius is also able to get himself to the right position to get off a good shot and is able to work his stick to create room to find a shot. Everything, in terms of his goal-scoring game, is already there.
Lucius has time to develop the other areas of his game, as he’ll head to the University of Minnesota (NCAA) next year to begin the next stage of his development.
The problems with Lucius are well defined, and his lack of experience on a big stage — missing the U18 Worlds this year and again, playing just 25 games in this shortened year — could lead to teams undervaluing him. What Lucius brings to the table is also clear, and that kind of goal scoring is always a need for every NHL team.
Lucius will likely transition away from center soon and will become a goal-scoring wing. With an aging Patrick Kane and two potential centers already in the pipeline — Kirby Dach and Lukas Reichel, who played center throughout his time in the DEL and will likely transition to either the NHL or the AHL this season down the middle — that kind of wing would be a nice addition. DeBrincat has earned his big-money extension coming soon, but the Blackhawks will need to continue to add goals scored on the cheap. Drafting Lucius would be one way of doing that.