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Penguins’ 2017 second round pick Zachary Lauzon forced to retire from hockey due to concussions

Sad ending for a young prospect as Zachary Lauzon moves onto a future without hockey

NHL: JUN 28 Pittsburgh Penguins Development Camp Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In a sad development, former Penguins’ second round pick Zachary Lauzon, 20, will move on from playing competitive hockey due to lingering symptoms from concussions.

The Pens technically relinquished Lauzon’s exclusive rights over the summer, but player and team had an understanding that he would participate in their June summer camp and then hopefully again this fall if all went well.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. While Lauzon got through the June practices a French article cites a return of symptoms in late August, presumably when he amped up preparing for the start of training camp.

Lauzon unfortunately will become a footnote in franchise history for his unwitting role in a sour deal. The Pens acquired Ryan Reaves plus the 51st overall pick (used to select Lauzon) from St. Louis by giving up the last pick of the first round plus Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist has gone on to blossom for the Blues, while Reaves didn’t fit well in Pittsburgh and was a controversial first acquisition towards more muscle and less skill that’s seen the Pens fall from two straight Stanley Cup wins to being swept in the first round two seasons later.

Lauzon for his part shares no culpability, but his name to Pens’ fans will always be attached with that decision. He was the QMJHL defensive defenseman of the year in his draft year and would have been one of the team’s better prospects until the injuries intervened.

After being drafted, Lauzon was only able to play 25 games in juniors in 2017-18 and missed the entire 2018-19 season due to lingering issues. While his hockey days are done, hopefully he will heal up, get an education and carry on with a normal and full life. Sucks for him that his dream has to end on these terms, but at least he can walk away knowing he gave it his all.

Here’s the translated article from French, which is an adventure in itself:

Two years ago, Zachary Lauzon lived the dream of all young hockey fans by wearing a uniform of a National Hockey League team.

The Pittsburgh Penguins made their choice of second round, the 51st selection in total. The Montreal Canadiens also had it in their sights, but Lauzon was no longer available when they selected Josh Brook (56th) and Joni Ikonen (58th).

The native defender of Val-d’Or in Abitibi believed his dream at hand.

But the house of cards, mounted after years of effort, has subsided.

The symptoms of a concussion and a whiplash suffered during the year of his repechage ruined his life. He was kept out of the rink for months, no longer knowing when he could train and play again.

For two years he fought. He clung to his dream, eager to sign a first professional contract with the team that trusted him.

The left-handed defender returned to the game the following season, playing 30 games with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies at age 18.

He tried everything

Thirty games, interspersed with meetings with specialists. Appointments by the ton. An army of chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, neurologists, sports psychologists and anything else you want. He tried everything.

Including meetings with Dr. Ted Carrick, the doctor who worked with Sidney Crosby during his episodes of concussion symptoms ...

When he hit the bottom of the barrel last year, Lauzon thought he would let go. His body was throwing messages at him, like the fracture of his foot as he thought he was going back up the hill. But the verb “to give up” is not part of the Lauzon family dictionary, proud and combative Abitibians.

The Penguins did not offer him a contract this year, but they still sent him an invitation to their rookie camp. He became free like air, but in his heart he is still a member of the organization that trusted him in June 2017.

The young man, who turns 21 next October, then got along with the University of New Brunswick, eager to prepare for the future, and suddenly his health did not allow him to return to the top.

”I made a promise that I would be honest with myself,” he says. I was confident, I could not wait to test myself. At the same time, I was realistic for the future. “

From the first training session in late August, headaches and dizziness returned.

A few hours later, the verdict fell as a fatality. Lauzon made the toughest decision of his life: he was going to hang his skates and get away from hockey.

”The most difficult but smart decision to make,” he says.

Withdraw head high

He stands tall, proud to have been drafted by an NHL team.

Zachary Lauzon will have fought against his body with all his strength.

This complete defender, known for his character and his love of the physical game, unfortunately could no longer collect shocks.

”I was no longer comfortable making routine contacts. I changed my game. I felt fragile.“

He retires nevertheless full of pride.

”I’m proud to have gone all the way,” he says. It is a mature decision. It’s flat because the passion is still there. I could have played hockey for a long time, but I’m no longer willing to take chances and suffer the commotion of too much. “

A fighter

In those three years of moping, Lauzon grew up as a human being.

”Mentally, I really aged, he philosophizes. I got to know myself and develop other areas of interest than hockey. “The University of New Brunswick offered to stay with the team, while continuing to undergo treatment, but he preferred to go home, where his parents welcomed him. open.

”I think they’re proud of me,” he observes. Their number one goal was that I have no regrets. They supported me a lot with the treatments. When I announced my decision, I felt that my mother was happy and relieved. “

Zachary Lauzon also received the support of his agents, Pat Brisson and André Ruel, and the organization of the Penguins. He was supported from beginning to end.

”I am very proud and pampered to be drafted by the Penguins, a team that really considers the human side,” he says. We all saw how they acted with the condition of Mario Lemieux, Kristopher Letang and Sidney Crosby. They never pressed me. “

Every dream that goes out is followed by a period of mourning.

The second in a family of three hockey players (his brother Jérémy has been playing for the Boston Bruins since 2015 and Émile is a Val-d’Or Foreurs forward in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) is well. aware.

”I’m going to leave hockey a little bit,” said the one who was offered coaching duties. I have given enough in recent years. I will prepare my second life. “

A second life which, I am sure, will be as successful as the first. Because Zachary Lauzon is still fighting until the end.