Chaz Lucius is one of the most offensively gifted forwards in the 2021 NHL Draft, but knee surgery last year limited his chance to make a big impact this season.
When healthy though, Lucius showed why he is such a threat to score and he should carry that momentum into his freshman season at the University of Minnesota next season.
Here’s everything you need to know about Minnesota-born star Chaz Lucius.
Age: 18 (May 2, 2003)
Weight: 172 pounds
Current team: U.S. National U18 Team
Knee surgery defined season
Last summer, with the uncertainty of the pandemic and his most important season yet on the horizon, Lucius made the decision to have knee surgery. That set him on a long road to recovery which included three months without walking and sessions in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for two hours at a time, five days a week.
“He worked really, really hard to get himself ready to go. Really hard, really impressive,” his coach Dan Muse said on the NHL Draft Class podcast in April. “That starting point of his return was a really good one, which has allowed him to continue to build things into his game.”
Lucius returned to the ice for the first time in December but wouldn’t see game action with the U.S. U-18 team until February. But in his first game, he exploded with two goals and set about making up for lost time.
“Even last year I was dealing with this knee pain and it was kind of a lingering issue. I didn’t really know what was wrong and when they finally told me what it was it all kind of made sense and I was actually almost, I mean you never want to miss time, but I was almost relieved that we found out what it was and that I could get it fixed and that it was an easy fix and an easy solution to the problem,” Lucius said in an interview on the NHL Draft Class podcast. “I was never nervous and I always knew once I got back I’d be better and I’d feel more confident with a healthy knee.”
Skill, skill, skill
Lucius has scored at every stop along his young career and this season was no different, even after his knee injury. In just 13 games this season, Lucius scored 13 goals and 20 points after scoring 31 goals and 50 points in 46 games at the U-17 level the season before.
Playing alongside fellow draft prospect Sasha Pastujov, Lucius found success driving to the slot and firing his lethal shot past goalies. But when he’s not banging in nice setups, he’s carrying the puck with confidence and creating opportunities for himself or his teammates with shifty hands and a good vision of the ice.
“When he came back (from knee surgery) his ability to create offence both with his shot and his playmaking ability, it really stood out to me from Day 1,” Muse said in an interview with The Athletic's Scott Wheeler. “He’s got a great sense of where to go and there are a lot of little things he does once he has entered the zone, whether it’s entering the zone or once the team has established possession, just to get himself open.
“Then you combine that offensive sense with really great hands, the shot from distance, the shot in tight, and it’s just a really threatening combination. He’s a really fun player to work with.”
— Dylan Krill (@dylan_krill) February 27, 2021
"The Tom Brady of 17-year-olds"
A less quantifiable talent that Lucius will bring to the next level is a work ethic and maturity that most teenagers don’t possess. Whether it’s being a leader to other teammates during games or pushing himself to improve, those around him have noticed something is special about the way he carries himself.
Nick Quinn, a skills coach who has worked with Lucius as well as 2021 draft prospects Owen Power and Cole Sillinger, called Lucius “a force” whose sky is the limit thanks to his maturity.
“When you talk to him, you get the impression very quickly that he’s not your average teenager by any stretch,” Quinn said in an interview with The Athletic. “Chaz is all business.”
Pastujov, when asked what getting Lucius back from injury meant to the U-18 team, mentioned his goal-scoring ability but only after discussing his role as a leader.
“Chaz is a big part of our team,” Pastujov said in an interview with the NHL Draft Class podcast. “He’s another guy that’s big in the locker room and someone the team missed. But he came back and he’s showing everyone what he can do with his goal-scoring abilities.”
One of his former coaches took the praise a step further, comparing Lucius to one of the greatest athletes of all time.
“I think he’s like God’s gift to the Earth. No bulls---, no coach speak, his mindset is on another planet. He’s not human. I’ve never seen it. He’s the Tom Brady of 17-year-olds,” Billy Hengen, who first coached Lucius when he was 10, said in an interview with The Athletic. “As a coach you’re like ‘whoa, maybe I should be doing what he’s doing.’”
No matter where his pro hockey career takes him, it's clear Lucius has the maturity and drive to make the most of the opportunity.