Once the Colorado Avalanche selected Mikko Rantanen with the 10th pick in last year’s draft, Florida Panthers General Manager, Dale Tallon seemingly jumped out of his seat to make his team’s selection.
Although it was speculated that the Panthers thought very highly of Rantanen, Tallon got to select the “faller” of the draft class, Lawson Crouse.
There is no doubt that Crouse slid down the draft rankings because scouts questioned his offensive upside, but it was his size, speed, shot and all-around game that had some scouts ranking him as high as fifth overall.
So what should fans of the Panthers expect from the soon to be 19-year-old Crouse?
Size and Physicality
There’s no denying that Crouse’s biggest strength is his size, which allows him to dominate shifts by wearing down his opponents through force, rather than skating circles around them.
As I mentioned above, Crouse isn’t even 19 years old, yet he stands at six-foot-four and weighs 214 pounds, which means he still has time to grow an inch or two and put on some muscle and overall weight.
That’s a pretty scary thought.
His size and strength allow him to get to the dirty areas on the ice and score a lot of the ugly goals his team may score. Here’s an example (Crouse is number 67 in black), via catsontheprowl.com.
— Cats On The Prowl (@Cats0ntheprowl) April 10, 2016
The ability to bury garbage goals is something that the Panthers desperately need.
Anyone who watched their regular season or playoff power play will know how bad it really was and it is largely due to the fact that there is no one standing in front of the net causing havoc.
Crouse’s net-front presence will undoubtedly help the Cats when they’re up a man, especially since they operated at under 17 per cent on the power play in the regular season, and under roughly 13 per cent in the postseason.
There is no doubt that Crouse will be physically ready for NHL play as a 19-year-old, but it may take a little while for the points to start flowing in.
A Complete Game, on top of skill
Along with his size, Crouse also brings the ability to play at both ends of the rink.
He headlined the Kingston Frontenacs‘ power play and penalty kill units. He also finished out his final year in the OHL with 62 points in 49 regular season games and 11 points in the 9 playoff games the Fronts played, one of the goals coming on the penalty kill, here’s the clip of the short handed goal:
— Cats On The Prowl (@Cats0ntheprowl) April 14, 2016
But, as previously mentioned, there’s a reason why Crouse is such a highly touted prospect. It’s because he has the size, but he also possesses high-end talent. Here’s another example of Crouse’s many talents.
— Cats On The Prowl (@Cats0ntheprowl) April 2, 2016
When looking at prospects, I love to think of three comparables for a player. The best case comparable, the likely comparable and the worst case comparable, here’s my three:
Wayne Simmonds – If Crouse ends up putting up 25 to 30 goals and 50 to 60 points per season in his prime, he’ll be the steal of the 2015 draft at 11th overall. Simmonds is my “best case” comparable for Crouse because they have a lot of similarities. They’re both big and strong, they play the boards well and drive to the net. The two players also have lethal shots and the ability to set up players around them. If Crouse hits his skill ceiling then he could very well be a Simmonds-type player.
Milan Lucic – I’ll admit, Lucic is probably closer to a “best case” than a “likely comparable” but Crouse and Lucic are such similar players that it’s a hard comparison to ignore. Again, size is a big reason why they’re so much alike, but the players also have that “mean” side, where they’re not afraid to stand up for teammates by fighting or laying a big hit. Even if Crouse doesn’t put up a 60-point season, Lucic will probably be the best player to compare him to, simply because of the similarities in their games.
Tom Wilson – Although Wilson is only 22 years old, we’ve likely seen what type of player he is going to be in the NHL. He is extremely tough, can drive to the net, kills penalties very well and gets under the skin of his opponents. Wilson is also known for walking the line in terms of clean play, and that’s where this comparison works in my eyes as the “worst case” comparable. Crouse has also had some suspension troubles in the OHL and has crossed the line on more than one occasion. If Crouse cannot figure things out in the offensive zone in the NHL, or cannot learn to control his aggression, he could end up as a Tom Wilson-type player. Considering how high the Panthers picked him, they will expect a lot more from Crouse than 20 to 30 points and 100 plus penalty minutes.