Exactly a year ago, Arizona Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse was projected by this writer to have a breakout season, and he did just that. He registered 34 points in 65 games on 20 goals and 14 assists — a 25-goal, 43-point pace over 82 games. While not a breakout in most people’s opinions, it was nevertheless a year of career highs for the Ontario native. He set a new career high in goals, reaching the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his NHL career, and set a new career high in assists.
Coming into the 2022-23 NHL season, all eyes were focused on what Crouse could do statistically based on last year’s success. The only direction for him, and the team’s hope, was to go up and prove last season wasn’t a fluke. As of recently, he’s currently on track to shatter previous career highs and set new ones.
Crouse a Leader in the Locker Room
The most noticeable difference in Crouse’s game this season compared to last is the amount of leadership he’s been tasked with taking on. Named one of the team’s alternate captains heading into the 2022-23 campaign, he’s more than ready for this new challenge. He’s taken on plenty of roles in his career with the Coyotes already. From enforcer to penalty kill specialist to cleanup man on net-front rebounds, he’s no stranger to being tasked with a certain responsibility.
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This year has been different. He’s taken on a more vocal role, one that comes with the task of helping develop the team’s young core. Once a rebound man, crashing the net for that one greasy goal, he’s since developed into a well-rounded player, one that can create plays and bury the puck when needed.
Crouse’s Playmaking Skills On Display
A year ago, it took Crouse 65 games to score 20 goals. In 29 games this season, he’s registered 13, a projected pace of 36 goals, which would shatter his previous high by almost 20. The reason for this is his playmaking abilities, which have vastly improved compared to two years ago, resulting in the team signing him to a five-year contract extension during the offseason.
With a new contract extension and renewed confidence, his game has flourished, and it’s noticeable. He’s cut his plus/minus rating down to almost zero and is controlling the puck better while making smarter decisions. He’s staying out of the box, one of the biggest issues in his career, and is instead focusing on setting up a play rather than just being a big body. Not only has he helped himself, but he’s improved others around him; rookie Matias Maccelli has greatly benefited from having Crouse on his line and vice versa. That, in turn, has helped Crouse become a better goal scorer and all-around player.
Final Projections for Crouse’s Season
Crouse has re-written his role in the NHL. From 11th overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft to years of struggling for ice time while having to take on roles that he wasn’t expecting, he hasn’t let that stop him from getting where he is today. He’s established himself as one of the team’s stars and has cemented his place as part of the team’s core through their rebuild.
Crouse still has work to do, and by no means should his current success be the ceiling for his potential. He has all the makings to be a star. With 53 games remaining in the 2022-23 season, there are still accomplishments to check off his list, like an All-Star game nomination. But whatever the case may be, the Coyotes have themselves a frontrunner for team MVP, as Crouse continues to prove doubters wrong, two years removed from being written off.