Crouse’s NHL draft stock rising at world juniors

Canada's Lawson Crouse, right, celebrates his goal against Denmark with teammates Nick Ritchie, centre, and Fredrik Gauthier (22). (Frank Gunn/CP)

TORONTO – Lawson Crouse stick-handled around a Danish defenceman — in his words, "I did a dipsy-doodle move" — and then ripped a wrist-shot, top shelf.

Canada’s NHL draft-eligible player not named Connor McDavid grinned and pumped his arms, then grabbed the Canada logo on his jersey and pumped it while the crowd at Air Canada Centre in Toronto went berserk; 3-0, Canada.

"That was emotion, takin’ over," a smiling Crouse said of his celebration, after Friday’s game. "Obviously, when you get the first one, I was pretty happy about it."

Yes, the 17-year-old Crouse saved his first goal of the IIHF World Junior Championship for the biggest crowd this tournament’s drawn so far, a crowd filled with Canada jersey-wearing fans who started screaming “Go Canada Go!” fewer than 20 seconds into Friday’s quarterfinal game, and over-celebrated the eighth goal almost as much as they did the first during an 8-0 rout of Denmark.

"It’s so exciting," Crouse said. "At the start [of the tournament] I was a little nervous, I didn’t know what to expect. Now that I got my feet wet, it’s amazing. I’m happy to be here."

Talk to the blonde-haired Crouse, and he won’t strike you as an under-ager. It's partly because he’s 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds. And because, in Kingston -- where he plays for the Frontenacs -- Crouse’s nickname is "The Sherrif" because he takes care of his teammates. He’s an honest, hard-checking power forward who’s impressed on Canada’s fourth line.

"He’s 17, he’s a young guy," says teammate Samuel Morin, the 11th overall pick in 2013. "He does a great job for us, he shuts down the best players on the other team, and he scored a great goal tonight."

And can you tell he’s just 17? "No," Morin says, smiling.

Crouse is a projected top-10 pick in this June’s NHL draft, and a scout here says his stock has risen in the last week. Big No. 28 says he’s a "little" surprised at the amount of ice time he’s been getting. Pleasantly surprised, that is.

"I’m just working as hard as I can in practice, and I’ve been getting the opportunities in games so it’s been nice, and it shows the respect that they have for me and I’m glad for that," Crouse says. "It’s obviously a good confidence boost to see that we’re getting this much ice. That we scored a couple goals today shows that we can do some offensive stuff, instead of playing defence or just getting pucks in deep."

Crouse also drew an assist Friday on the eighth goal with 54.8 seconds left, when Nick Ritchie knocked in his rebound.

Slovakia’s up next in Sunday’s semifinal, a team Canada crushed 8-0 in preliminary round play. Crouse already seems to be looking ahead, not that you can blame him.

"Coming together, getting the chance to play for your country, it’s been amazing," he says. "Comin’ in with this group of guys, they’re all great. I’m just hoping we can win a gold medal together."