Winnipeg Jets prospect Chaz Lucius is producing in the WHL

NHL.com

Winnipeg Jets’ first-round pick in 2021, 18th overall Chaz Lucius, opted to leave college and turn pro signing an entry-level contract in April 2022 as an 18-year-old.

Lucius was expected to head back to the University of Minnesota for the 2022-23 season. Instead, foregoing three years of college eligibility, there was no guarantee where he would play this season; the jump from one year in college to NHL at age 19 is no small feat. While being eligible to play in the AHL at this age because he wasn’t drafted out of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) gave him a pro option moving forward.

The White Bear Lake, Minn. native was initially selected by the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League in the fourth round, 74th overall, of the 2018 WHL Prospects Draft. He has remained on the club’s protected college list after initially electing to go the NCAA route. Lucius played two seasons with the United States National Team Development Program, which he was drafted from to the NHL, before enrolling at the University of Minnesota in 2021.

In his one-and-done season with the Golden Gophers, he played 24 games scoring nine goals and adding ten assists playing wing on a line with Ben Meyers, a Colorado Avalanche prospect, and Toronto Maple Leafs’ top prospect Matthew Knies.

At the end of the Winnipeg Jets’ 2022-23 training camp, Lucius was sent down to their AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose where he was moved back to center ice position. Lucius scored twice in 12 games with the Moose, adding three assists. Before being named to Team USA’s preliminary roster for the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship in Halifax in early December 2022.

After making Team USA, Lucius didn’t disappoint at the 2023 World Junior Championship. Playing in seven games, he had seven points. In the USA’s final game of the tournament, he scored a hat-trick, including the game-winning OT goal in a thrilling 8-7 win over Sweden to help the USA take home the bronze medal.

On January 9, 2023, Winnipeg announced they had assigned Lucius to the Portland Winterhawks for the remainder of the 2022-23 season.

Although it may be a small sample size, having played three games in the WHL for Portland, Lucius has seven points in three games (1G-6A) with 12 shots. Over those three games, he’s won 27 of 48 face-offs taken.

Portland continues to climb the 2022-23 Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings, moving to 6th this week with a 31-8-2-1 record. The 2023 Memorial Cup is in Kamloops, British Columbia, from May 26-June 4. If the Portland Winterhawks have aspirations to be part of it, they will face tough competition to get out of the WHL. The addition of Lucius will go a long way to determining their success if he continues his strong play.

A brief stint in the AHL, World Juniors, and now WHL, Lucius hasn’t disappointed in his first year out of college. Yet, a work in progress to develop playing up the middle, the Winnipeg Jets can hopefully be patient with the young center. That might be easier said than done with refired rumblings of current Jets’ star center Pierre-Luc Dubois wanting to play in Montreal and no indication of being willing to commit to Winnipeg long-term. Lucius’ path might come sooner rather than later to the NHL.

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