Since making the NHL out of juniors two seasons ago, Milan Lucic has been compared to the likes of Bruins legends Cam Neely and Terry O’Reilly for his grit, hustle and all-around power-forward game. The Bruins are hoping Lucic can use all his skills to help fill the Phil Kessel void on offense.
“When we talk about the scoring depth we have, ‘Luch’ is in there too,” center and linemate Marc Savard said. “We know the type of player he is becoming, and part of that is offense, not just toughness.”
At 6-feet-4, 220 pounds, the 21-year old Lucic can dance with the best of them when it comes to dropping the gloves. TSN and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire recently referred to Lucic as a “devastating machine” and a “cyborg” for the brute strength he displays with his punches and hits. But Lucic has also shown tenacity around the net and the potential to have the offensive prowess of three-time 50-goal scorer Neely.
“I definitely think ‘Luch’ has that potential,” veteran winger Mark Recchi said recently. “With today’s rules and not being able to really clear guys out in front, a guy his size can dominate.”
Recchi, who is quite a bit shorter than Lucic, but built like a fire hydrant, has made a living out of parking himself in front of the net and tipping in incoming shots from defensemen. As Recchi points out, it’s not how you score them, but that you score. And the future Hall of Famer, who has lit the lamp 545 times in his career, thinks Lucic could score plenty of goals the way he has.
“Oh yeah, are you kidding me?” Recchi asked with a wide grin. “That kid is perfect for that and could totally park himself in front. You just need to practice at it, and he does. But yeah, someone that big and with his style of play could be really successful going to the net and trying to get rebounds and tips.”
Last season, Lucic upped his goal total by nine from his rookie season, finding the net 17 times. He doesn’t plan on shying away from the physical part of his game, but he knows he can balance it and improve offensively.
“You always want to improve, and I did that last year, but yeah, I think I can be better,” Lucic said. “I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my game and ability to score. I think it’s just about practicing tip-ins and always trying to create traffic in front. I have the size to do that, so I need to take advantage of it.”
If he follows through on those plans, Lucic is sure to make the lives of opposing goalies very difficult.
“I wouldn’t want to have to clear him out, that’s for sure,” said Bruins rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask. “When you have a guy his size in front like that, and if he knows how to read the shots and tip them in, there’s not much a goalie can do.”
So while Bruins fans will be eager to see Lucic pummel his nemesis, Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek, or any other opponent that wrongs his teammates, they must also realize that Lucic has the capability to score as well and help the Bruins win on the scoreboard.
“I think he knows we’re going to need him that way more, and I’m here to help him with the physical stuff too,” forward Shawn Thornton said. “He knows the time and place. He’s not going to stop being physical, but he knows he can do so much more to help this team. That’s why he is so important to this lineup. He gives his all every night, and he can score too.”