USHL Report: Chaz Lucius

Hadi Kalakeche

2021-04-12

The U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) has been in charge of developing the nation’s top talents since 1996, and it seems like their crops get better every year. From current NHL stars Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Patrick Kane, Matthew Tkachuk, and many more. To up-and-coming youngsters like Trevor Zegras, Cole Caufield and Matt Boldy, the Program has been churning out NHL talent like few other development teams can. This year is no exception, as ten of our 100 ranked players in the DP Scouting Team’s 2021 NHL Draft Rankings (March 2021) come from that one program. Our focus this month is on the top-ranked forward of their class, Chaz Lucius.

The six-foot, 170-pound Minnesotan center has been very difficult to analyze properly, as he has missed all but 12 games this season due to a lower-body injury. Since his return, however, he has collected 13 goals and five assists – over a goal-per-game pace – and has been a headache for opponents on a consistent basis. Before we continue with our analysis, please watch this dissection of Chaz Lucius’ game, using footage from five of his matches this season.

Written Analysis

Immeasurables

Here, we evaluate Lucius’ skating, IQ, and mentality, which cannot be quantified appropriately and require in-depth eye-test analysis:

Skating: C

Lucius’ skating is not terrible by any means, but it does require a lot of fine-tuning; his edgework is above-average, but he lacks high-end speed and explosivity. When he performs crossovers, he does not extend his back leg fully, catching less ice with each stride than a more technically gifted skater. Lucius has adapted his game accordingly by leaving the puck-carrying in transition to his teammates and positioning himself in favorable situations to benefit from their efforts. He also adapts his on-ice positioning quicker than most, leading to fewer skating-related issues.

IQ: B

Chaz Lucius has an above-average IQ both on and off the puck, finding seams that other players might overlook and solving problems offensively and defensively, with relative consistency. He uses his teammates to his advantage and can pull off high-skill plays in-tight to make defensemen look foolish. He will need to make better decisions with the puck, especially on the rush, but he definitely shows the intelligence to keep up mentally with a high-paced game.

Mentality: B

It takes quite a level of confidence to join the USNTDP mid-season and immediately become their top goal-scorer, and Chaz Lucius has that confidence. He does not back down from any one-on-one and has enough trust in his abilities to attempt high-skill plays any time he gets the puck in the offensive zone. He can occasionally seem disinterested when the offense isn’t rolling, but he still manages to display a decent level of confidence and resilience on a regular basis.

Stickhandling: B+

Lucius’ stickhandling is one of his strongest attributes; he has a knack for retaining possession through contact and has a bag of tricks that can fool the smartest of defenders. On the rush, he shows no fear in charging the defender and attempting a deke between his legs, or under his stick. His lethal shooting ability forces defenders to play him aggressively, and he then benefits from the space they leave to 

Statistical profile

Stats are hand-collected and even-strength, only unless indicated otherwise. Collected using approx. 60 minutes of ice-time at five-on-five over five games. 

Shooting: A

  • On vs off-net: 10-5
  • One-timers: 5
  • Outside vs. slot: 2-12
  • Goals: 4

Lucius’ shooting is easily top-five in this draft class; his shooting mechanics are refined, and he shows the ability to vary his shot based on the circumstances. If he is using a one-timer from the half-wall, he’ll push his top hand out and transfer his weight from back to forth; if he is closer to the net, he will use a downforce shot to elevate the puck quickly. His wrist shot is mechanically sound, and he shows strong kinetic understanding to use his entire body to his advantage. His shot in-stride does leave something to be desired, but he should have no problem working on his shot, as it is something he loves to do. He hits the net two-thirds of the time and seems to know when to shoot rather than slinging every puck on net. Furthermore, 86% of his attempts on goal were from the slot, with only two pucks thrown on goal from outside that area.

Passing: B 

  • Success rate: 46/62 – 74.1%
  • High-danger passes: 6/17 – 35.2%
  • Passes that led to shots (within the next two seconds): 7

Lucius’ passing game in the offensive zone is simple: if there’s a teammate in the slot, he tries reaching them. No matter how many bodies are in the way, Lucius will attempt to put the puck near their stick. This tendency can lead to some pretty obvious plays being overlooked, but his intentions are good. He will need to learn to take the low-to-high play when it’s available instead of forcing the play to the middle in order to play a more complete offensive game.

Puck Retrievals: B+

  • Loose: 16
  • Contested: 20/35 – 57.1% won

Lucius is extremely active in puck battles, chasing down any sign of a contested puck and attempting to regain possession for his team. He is involved in many more puck battles than loose puck retrievals, indicating that his play is much more focused on board play and forechecking. Instead of waiting for a loose puck, Lucius goes and creates it.

Play-driving: A-

(on-ice team stats)

  • Passes to slot for vs. against: 15-4 
  • Shot attempts for vs. against: 51-38 
  • High-danger chances for vs. against: 21-9  
  • Takeaways vs. Turnovers: 11-12

Lucius’ ability to drive the play positively was more than evident in these five viewings, especially his ability to generate slot passes and high-danger chances. He baits players into free space behind them, exploiting it either himself or through a teammate. His tendency to bring the puck to the middle of the offensive zone helps generate decent scoring risk on a regular basis, but he did benefit from playing with teammates that drive play well, such as Tyler Boucher, Isaac Howard, and Jeremy Wilmer. His ability to create shots for himself also helped, as almost 30% of the shot attempts with Lucius on the ice came directly from him.

Line carries and transition: D

  • Defensive blue line: 6
  • Red line: 7
  • Offensive blue line: 13
  • Three-line carries: 3
  • Dump-ins: 6
  • Dump-outs: 2

As previously discussed, Lucius’ lack of high-end pace and explosivity leads to him relying on his teammates to carry the puck up the ice. He seems quite comfortable attacking the middle of the rink when he does carry, however, and shows a good knack for finding soft space between the defenders and backchecking forwards when attacking as a unit on the rush. Refining his skating will greatly assist his ability to carry the puck himself into the offensive zone, but as of right now, Lucius’ bread-and-butter is cycle offense and lots of it.

Defense: C+

  • Puck checks (stick or body): 6
  • Body checks: 2
  • Blocked passes: 9
  • Blocked shots: 1
  • Faceoffs: 31/51 (all sit.) – 60.8%

Lucius’ faceoff percentage stands out here, as he shows great stick and body positioning to gain leverage on the opposing center. He gets in the way of passes and does his part to shorten defensive zone sequences and shove the opposition out of dangerous areas. He sweeps low on breakouts, ensuring cover if the outlet misses, and shows the tenacity to win puck battles that he shouldn’t.

Conclusion

Although Lucius’ game is spearheaded by a lethal shot, my viewings of him assure me that he is not a “zero-calorie scorer”; instead, Lucius shows an alluring mix of skill and strength to go with his goal-scoring ability, and should warrant a top-15 in the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft. If a team can hone his skating and render it a strength rather than a weakness, he could turn into one of the top goal-scorers of this draft and earn a long, fruitful career as a top-six center. 

Follow me on Twitter @HadiK_Scouting for more prospect-related content!

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