With the Kingston Fontenacs losing to the Niagara IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinals, the offseason begins for Lawson Crouse—or does it?
The Panthers’ 2015 first round pick (11th overall) has had two incredible seasons in the OHL, scoring 113 points in 105 games (ontariohockeyleague.com/stats). The large left winger has shown potential in leading the team and promises to make an impact at the next level. According to the guys at Cats on the Prowl, that move seems to be coming sooner rather than later.
#FlaPanthers Lawson Crouse eliminated from the OHL Playoffs tonight…hearing from sources that it’s possible he comes to Florida…
— Cats on the Prowl (@Cats0ntheprowl) April 14, 2016
If general manager Dale Tallon were bold enough to make this move, what would the Panthers be getting? Aside from his offensive talent, the 6-foot-4-inch, 212 pound Crouse would bring additional size and speed. With injuries affecting the team for the beginning of the playoffs, the Panthers could benefit from having a legitimate scoring threat on the fourth line.
Crouse was not originally touted as an offensive threat. TSN Director of Scouting, Craig Button, regarded him more as a grinding playmaker.
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.
Since then, however, he has clearly exhibited his offensive prowess and could provide additional depth to the team’s already balanced attack. The Panthers’ fourth line (Wilson–MacKenzie–Thornton) is a group of grinders. They do exceptionally well against physical opponents and cause all sorts of havoc on the forecheck. Without speed though, they pose very little threat in the offensive zone—scoring seven goals between them this season. Replacing Wilson with Crouse would keep the line’s physicality intact while providing scoring potential. This scenario is very similar to what the Panthers were trying to accomplish with Quinton Howden earlier in the season.
On any other team, adding a new player to the mix, at this time, would negatively impact the locker room dynamic. The Panthers are different. By consistently dedicating themselves to the bigger picture, the players on this year’s Panthers team will do whatever it takes to win. If Tallon thinks this move will make the team better for the playoffs, watch out for some Crouse highlights.
Florida Panthers contributor. You can find me at the Cats’ game or playing NHL ’16.