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Lucic recalls BCHL roots

Photo courtesy of Garrett James Photography

(Submitted by Alex Hoegler, BCHL Communications)

An important season in the BCHL paved the way for Los Angeles Kings forward Milan Lucic to make a name for himself in the pros.

The 6-foot-4, 233-pound standout said that playing a year with the Coquitlam Express in 2004-05 helped him develop his game before he joined the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, which led to what has been a remarkable NHL career.

“Looking back, it was such an important part of my development and (helping) me moving on to the next step,” he said. “At the time, I think if I would have jumped straight into the WHL, it would have been a year or two early.”

The Vancouver, B.C. said that being coached in Coquitlam by Rick Lanz, a former Vancouver Canucks defenceman, helped him mature and grow as a player.

“It was a great opportunity for me to get my game going in the right direction, playing with older guys and getting used to practicing every day,” Lucic said. “Playing for a guy like Rick Lanz, who had a successful NHL career… (helped) me develop as a 16-year-old.

Lucic played 50 games in the 2004-05 season with the Express, scoring nine goals and 23 points.

“It was probably the most important thing as far as my transition getting into junior hockey. I still have some friends from that team, some good memories,” Lucic said. “Back with Billy Ranford here who was the coach back then in Coquitlam (and now as the Kings goaltending coach). It was a fun time.”

It was also during his time with the Express that he began to enhance the skills that prepared him for a professional career.

“Making plays, handling pucks off your skates, up to your stick,” he said. “Those little things that end up being big things that help you become a pro. Those are things that I developed over a year to get me to the next level.”

The star power forward played two seasons with the Giants, leading them to a 2007 Memorial Cup championship in his hometown. He was selected by the Boston Bruins 50th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He won a Stanley Cup with the team in 2011, and was traded to the Los Angeles Kings last summer, where he’s embraced a change of scenery.

“Teams that I played once or twice a year…Now you’re playing them regularly. So getting used to that has been a bit of an adjustment,” said Lucic. “Great team, great opportunity to hopefully win another championship…Thankful that I’ve ended up with such a great organization.”

Lucic, who has 17 goals and 51 points in 77 games, has also had to travel more with the Kings than when he was with the Bruins. He said he’s become accustomed to it, a necessity with the playoffs beginning next week.

“You get to spend more time with your teammates. I got used to it, heading into the playoffs, looking at the Western Conference, there’s going to be some travel along the road,” he said. “You got to do what you can…That’s not an excuse moving forward.”