Ottawa Senators Draft Preview: Lawson Crouse Climbs Ranks
The Sens are sliding out of the playoff picture.
Ten points separate the Senators from the Boston Bruins who now hold the last Eastern Conference playoff spot. With the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers wedged in between the Sens and a playoff berth, a post-season round is looking less likely each day.
It comes as no surprise.
Ottawa is icing one of the NHL’s youngest squads. The Senators are embracing a roster makeover, reducing playing time for veterans like Chris Phillips. The team is also navigating through a mid-season coaching change.
It’s true. A dramatic turnaround isn’t impossible. But, it’s probably time for the Senators and their fans to turn their focus towards the NHL Entry Draft as they prepare to challenge for the playoffs in the future.
Draft Preview: Senators Should Aim for Lawson Crouse
If there’s a year to accept a full rebuild and aim for a high draft pick, analysts believe this is the year.
As per Sportsnet’s Damien Cox:
Now is the time, and this is the draft, to try and get something special. Almost no other way to get special, franchise-type players.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) January 16, 2015
Were the season to end today, the Ottawa Senators would draft ninth in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. If the standings remain similar, household names like Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and even Noah Hanifin will be selected prior the Sens’ selection.
But one player that might remain on the draft board is a skater who is quickly climbing the mid-season ranks.
The hulking 6’4″, 211 lbs. left winger has developed into a physical force for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. With an NHL-ready frame, Crouse terrorizes defenders with relentless fore-checking.
As he said to Kristina Rutherford of Sportsnet:
“I like to scare the D a little bit.”
Lawson Crouse’s scoring stats won’t wow the Ottawa Senators’ scouts. He’s posted 14 goals, 21 points, and 55 penalty minutes in 28 games played this season. Clearly, the 17-year-old Crouse’s offensive game is still taking shape.
But the offense will come.
TSN’s Craig Button has described Lawson Crouse as a strong skater with burst and a smart scorer who drives the net.
Perhaps most impressive is Crouse’s strong sense of leadership. His teammates call him “Sherrif” and Frontenacs Head Coach Paul McFarland relies heavily on his young star in all situations.
As per Kristina Rutherford, McFarland says of Lawson Crouse:
He’s the kind of role model we want to represent not only our team and our league, but the game of hockey. He’s someone all the younger guys on the team—and even some older guys—look up to.
High praise for the talented young winger. Once he cracks an NHL roster, Lawson Crouse is poised to add offense, toughness and leadership.
But, do the Ottawa Senators have need for a “Sherrif”?
Does Lawson Crouse Fit in the Senators Organization?
The Ottawa Senators already boast a slew of skilled, offensive forwards like Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad, and Curtis Lazar. Each is under 25-years-old. Under new bench boss Dave Cameron, Hoffman and Stone have seen an uptick in production and playing time (see Callum Fraser’s article here for more on that).
Offensively, the future is bright in Ottawa.
But Lawson Crouse adds a dimension that the Senators lack.
Modelling himself after Milan Lucic (in part), Crouse has an enormous frame, a willingness to drive to the net, and plays a physical game.
Just ask Jesse Graham of the Niagara IceDogs:
The Ottawa Senators have a number of slick, offensive weapons developing in the NHL. In the AHL, Sens’ farm hands like Shane Prince and Matt Puempel are showing great promise.
But there is no bruiser with leadership and skill to match Lawson Crouse throughout the Senators organization. The promising young forward would bolster the great stable of prospects that the Senators have already assembled.
For the Ottawa Senators and their fans, here’s hoping Lawson Crouse is still available when the Sens’ take their turn at this year’s draft.
What do you think, Sens fans? Is Lawson Crouse the best fit for the Ottawa Senators or is there another first round prospect that would better fit in the organization?