Here is what you need to know about top prospect Lawson Crouse, the highest-rated North American winger in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Age on June 26: 18
Birthplace: Mount Brydges, Ont.
Current team: Kingston Frontenacs, OHL
Position: Left wing
Weight: 215 pounds
Twitter account: @LawCrouse
NHL Central Scouting rank (North American): 5th
Marek’s Take: The top power forward in the draft, hands down. Has a body and skill set that make him NHL-ready now. Crouse is a coach’s dream in many ways – can produce with top end players and also play a shutdown role. He never coasts and tries to do something every shift no matter what the situation. Comparable: Brendan Shanahan.
The best available at his position
No North American winger is rated higher than Crouse at No. 5 overall, and you’d have to scroll down to the 13th-ranked, significantly smaller Kyle Connor to find the next highly touted forward on the left side.
Crouse is lauded by scouts as a power forward in the Rick Nash mold, able to shield the puck with his large frame and pounce on rebounds. He has also exhibited strong skating, balance and a hard, quick shot.
He scored 27 points as a rookie with Kingston in 2013-14 and upped his production to 29 goals and 51 points over 56 games with the team in 2014-15.
“The odds of NHL success are stacked against Crouse and there are better picks that should be considered over Crouse in the early stages of the draft,” Joshua Weissbock argued for The Hockey Writers. “Drafting Crouse with such an early pick will come with a high opportunity cost.”
The worry is that scouts are favouring Crouse’s size over his production. Top-10 forwards should be lighting up the junior leagues, the theory goes. That Crouse is scoring below a point-per-game pace and may have padded his stats with help from NHL centre Sam Bennett raises a flag. He has just two goals in 11 OHL playoff games.
Kid’s already golden
No stranger to international invites, Crouse scored six goals in five games and won gold with Canada at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
In 2015, he followed that up with world junior gold, contributing one goal and a pair of assists to Canada’s championship at the Air Canada Centre in January.
He’s not afraid to drop the gloves
As one might expect from a big net-crasher, Crouse picks up more than his share of penalties — 134 penalty minutes over 119 OHL contests — and will throw down with a scrap. He’s fought 11 times in the past two years, according to hockeyfights.com, and will swing his stick at an opponent’s backside:
He’s also not afraid to drop an inspirational jewel
Known well for his sturdy work ethic and role-model aspirations, it should be no surprise that Crouse’s Twitter bio includes the motivational message “You never fight alone. Pressure is power!” He also spilled this gem back in 2013:
He’s always impressed early
Crouse was a first-round selection to the OHL (fifth overall) and scored in his very first major-junior game. High expectations are nothing new, and after billeting with the same family as Bennett, he’s observed how to handle the top-prospect hype.
His nickname is “The Sheriff”
“He’s the kind of role model we want to represent not only our team and our league, but the game of hockey,” Frontenacs coach Paul McFarland told Sportsnet’s Kristina Rutherford. “He’s someone all the younger guys on the team—and even some older guys—look up to.”
Leadership runs in the family
Dad Mike coached Lawson throughout his minor hockey career, and mom Kristen is a school principal. Lawson is the baby of the family with two older sisters, Sara and Kyla.
His musical tastes are questionable…