Welcome to our fifth player profile for the 2015 Draft. If you missed our fourth profile, you can check it out by clicking here. There will be several of these coming in the near future and leading up to the draft. Each profile will document a 2015-draft eligible player that the Panthers could pick based on their draft position, which we now know to be the 11th pick.
Today, we’ll highlight Lawson Crouse, a left-winger for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. Read on for a look at the number 5-ranked North American skater in this year’s draft.
Lawson Crouse just wrapped up his 2nd season in the OHL, during which he put up 29 goals and 22 assists in 56 games, and that’s good for a 24 point improvement over last year, despite playing in 7 less games. Crouse has 19 games of experience playing in international tournaments, including the World Hockey Championships U17 tournament, and the World Juniors U18 and U20 tournaments. Over those 19 games, he has totaled 18 points, and he was fairly impressive at the U20 tournament in December/early January, considering he was one of two underage players participating, and he was essentially off the radar of most scouts prior to the tournament. The other underage player was phenom Connor McDavid. If Crouse returns to the Frontenacs next year, he’ll be serving an 8-game suspension he received after a check to the head of North Bay Battalion captain Marcus McIvor during the final game of a 4-game sweep by North Bay on April 2nd. Crouse took over assistant captain duties in late January following the trade of former assistant captain Ryan Kujawinski.
Crouse is a big-bodied forward, measuring in a 6’4″ and 212 pounds, and he has the ability to physically dominate opponents. His size comes in handy when in puck battles along the boards, when he forechecks, or when he goes to check another player, although the latter has the potential to cause issues as evidenced above. His size also allows him to protect the puck and maintain possession very well. During his time with the Frontenacs and during WJC in late December, he was used on the first penalty-killing unit and was very effective. He’s a gritty player, and when his team is in the offensive zone, you’ll likely find him in front of the net, in the slot, or skating in on a dump-and-chase. In the defensive zone, his long reach allows him to interrupt the breakouts of the opposition and cause turnovers, and Crouse will often sacrifice his body to block shots. These abilities, coupled with his above-average wrist shot, project him to be a top 6 winger, although he could undoubtedly slot in to the top 9 as well. For a player of his size, his skating ability is slightly above average, but he could definitely work on his speed, which would enable him to be more effective. In terms of other players on the Panthers, Crouse can be compared to Jimmy Hayes with regard his frame, although Crouse is definitely grittier, more willing to get into the dirty areas, more likely to throw the body, and a better skater than Hayes.
Lawson Crouse is somewhat of a wildcard when it comes to the early part of the first round. Although he’s ranked #5 by Central Scouting amongst North American players, various other reputable scouting services have him ranked anywhere from 5 to 10. Realistically, he’ll probably end up being selected somewhere around 6th-8th, however it’s very possible that he could fall due to his somewhat underwhelming point production in his rookie and sophomore years compared to other top draft-eligible players. The Kingston Frontenacs have been a team that focuses on defense first and Crouse was still able to pot 29 goals despite playing on a line with a rookie in Juho Lammikko (drafted in 2014 by the Panthers) and being without the Frontenacs’ top forward, Sam Bennett. Crouse factored into 26 percent of Kingston’s goals this past season.
However, he’s strong, and players with his size, skill, and ability to physically dominate the opposition while playing a top line role are typically highly sought after. The Panthers don’t have much size on the wings, and Crouse would be able to add to that, as well as to the size the Panthers already have up the middle and on the backend.
Stay tuned for more coverage as we approach the 2015 NHL Draft, which will take place right here in Sunrise, Florida June 26th to the 27th.