Perhaps no prospect has been the center of more debate for this year's draft than Lawson Crouse. Scouts love his size, strength, and skill set as it oozes potential to become a solid NHL player. The stats community isn't as high on Crouse and cautions that taking him early in the 1st round could be a mistake. This profile will take a look at who Crouse is and what type of player he may become.
Who is Lawson Crouse?
Lawson Crouse is a 6'4", 215 lbs. LW that plays for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. He was born on June 23, 1997 which makes him one of the younger players in this year's draft class. A native of Mt. Brydges, Ontario, Crouse has represented Canada on the U17, U18, and U20 levels. Check out his stats from Elite Prospects and CHL Stats.
For a player that is talked about as being a potential top 10 pick, his numbers don't exactly pop out, but there are still some things to like. He improved his Pts/GP from 0.43 as a 16 year old to 0.91 as a 17 year old. According to The Draft Analyst, Crouse saw his Pts/GP go from 0.67 in the first half of last season to 1.15 in the second half. Perhaps Crouse wasn't at his best in the first half or was unlucky? It's hard to know since the OHL doesn't have shot data for individuals but his second half performance is encouraging either way.
Besides being Kingston's leading goal scorer and point earner, Crouse has a lot of experience playing for his country. He excelled as a member of Canada Ontario U17 in 2013-14 with 4 points in 5 games. He was on the Canada U18 WJC Bronze Medal winning team and scored the game winning goal in the Bronze Medal game. Crouse had an impressive showing at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial as he scored 6 goals in 5 games to help Canada's U18 side earn a Gold Medal. He followed it up later in the 2014-15 season as the youngest member of Canada's Gold Medal winning team.
The Projection Project doesn't necessarily give Crouse the highest chance of becoming a star but still gives him a generally favorable chance of becoming a regular NHL player compared to other prospects, with a 35% chance at success. Below is how they broke him down in their model.
Money Puck, from Canucks Army, tweeted out this Prospect Cohort Success Development Curve which shows Crouse improving his chances of becoming a regular NHL player to 27% this past season using their methodology.
Crouse is a bit all over the place in the various rankings. Central Scouting ranks him as the 5th best North American skater in the draft. ISS Hockey has him all the way up as the 4th best prospect in the draft. Bob McKenzie's rankings have Crouse as the 7th best prospect, Hockey Prospect has him at 8th, followed by Future Considerations and Craig Button ranking Crouse at 10th. Hockey Prospectus has Crouse the lowest at 14th overall.
What Others Have Said About Crouse
His page at Future Considerations has this report on him:
A big-bodied forward who gives opposing defenses headaches with his effort on the forecheck…tough to contain with his huge frame and strength…impossible to separate from the puck and consistently is successful winning pucks and generating scoring chances through his hard work…moves the puck well with good vision and passing skill…a strong net-front presence… has decent speed for his size, though he could improve his quickness…plays hard on defense; forces plays and takes away angles…uses his size to play physical, including laying some devastating hits…is a moose along the wall down low…tremendous potential going forward.
I'm not surprised to read that he is able to use his size to dominate smaller opponents. It does make me wonder how much of his success is based off of playing against physically weaker kids? Will his power forward game translate to the next level? It is nice to read that he plays hard on defense and knows how to take away angles though.
Craig Button of TSN gave Crouse good to excellent ratings in terms of his skating, smarts, hands, shot, and compete level. He offered this insight below:
Lawson has unique skills and abilities and while he may not have prolific offensive capabilities, he has a game where he will create offensive opportunities in multiple ways. A smart, strong skater with power and a great desire to create room and space with purposeful play. One of the few power players in draft.
The more I read about Crouse, the more I keep reading about how his offense may not be high level, but he does a lot of other things well and has a decent all-around game. He seems to have the skill set to become a regular NHL player one day, even if it isn't in a top line role.
Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst also has some thoughts on Crouse's game:
Crouse has the potential to become a dominating power forward at the NHL level because he has the shot and net presence opposing coaches can only talk about neutralizing. He was given an opportunity to lead an understrength Kingston team and conducted himself with aplomb, playing in all types of on-ice situations and leading by example. Crouse does not have many flaws. He’s not a speed demon, but he’s a good skater with great balance who uses his long strides to cover ground in a hurry. He has a reputation as a fearless hitter and tireless worker; he’s at his best when he’s causing havoc along the boards and creating turnovers with his relentless forechecking, then positioning himself for a quality chance.
It seems that Crouse knows that to succeed he needs to use his size and strength to win battles and cause havoc in front of the opponent's net. It is nice to read that he played in all situations for a flawed Kingston team and really took charge as a leader for that club. Once again it's noted that he isn't the fastest skater but I suppose that's something he can work on given his age and the fact that he is still growing into his large frame.
Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports has this review of Crouse:
Lawson Crouse has the soft hands to finish in close and can tip in shots, or bang in goals from the front of the net. He also has a good wrist shot with a decent release. Crouse can make the smart pass in the cycle game to an open man along the boards to keep the play going, but he isnt much of a playmaker. Lawson Crouse is also an excellent penalty killer, and has excellent defensive instincts. He anticipates the play well, and can use his long stick to break up passes.
Crouse seems to earn a fair amount of praise for his shot but it seems like his passing ability leaves viewers wanting a bit more. He seems to have the skills to be a hulking wing that can attack the net but lacks the vision to set up his teammates. I also like to read (again) that he can be an effective penalty killer and knows how to position himself in the defensive zone.
Finally, I highly recommend checking out Brock Otten's Final Media/Scout Top 10 for 2015 at OHL Prospects which has a ton of thoughts about Lawson Crouse.
A Little Video
Craig Button of TSN has a short video here where he praises Crouse's power game while highlights of Crouse from the 2015 WJC play.
Here are his highlights from the 2015 WJC where you can see his physicality, relentlessness, and skill on display. He does seem to have some nice hands for a guy that typically embraces the tough side of the game. You can see why scouts praise his all around game.
This next video has highlights of Crouse playing for Kingston. You can see him doing some drills, throwing some punches, and scoring some goals.
Finally, here is a video of Crouse that goes shift by shift which is helpful as it includes normal shifts and not just the highlights. It is from Kingston vs. Sarnia on 1/31/15 in which Crouse had a goal and 2 assists.
An Opinion of Sorts
I personally like Crouse a lot as a prospect. He's big, knows how to use his size to his advantage, is by all accounts a sound defensive player, and even has some nice hands offensively. He also doesn't turn 18 until right before the draft so he put up some solid numbers as a 17 year old in the OHL and is among the younger players in his draft class. He seems to have the necessary skills required to build upon to become a regular NHL player. With that said, I wouldn't want the Devils to use their #6 pick on him.
I'd rather the Devils try to draft someone with a higher offensive upside than Crouse that early in the draft. Crouse is a quality prospect but belongs more just outside the top 10 in my opinion. One of my main concerns about him is how much does his size over a lot of smaller junior players impact the way he is perceived? Is he one of the best players on the ice because of his talent or is it because he is dominating weaker opponents? We really won't know what type of pro he will be until he gets the chance to prove himself.
There is a lot to like about Crouse and he certainly deserves the praise he has earned from scouts. I'd just be a bit hesitant to take him as early as #6 in the draft.
How do you feel about Lawson Crouse as a NHL prospect? Do you think he should be a top 10 pick or go later in the 1st round? Would you be excited or upset if the Devils took him at #6? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!