The Florida Panthers will have plenty of options to fill the most glaring need in its prospect pool, a winger with size, toughness and some scoring pop, when they pick at the number eleven spot in the 2015 NHL draft.
To no one in the known universe's surprise, The Cooper & Blue selected Connor McDavid first overall and Die By The Blade quickly scooped up Jack Eichel in the two hole. The draft started in earnest with the embattled Arizona Coyotes at three and here's how we got to this point:
- 3. Arizona: Dylan Strome, via Five For Howling
- 4. Toronto: Mitch Marner, via Pension Plan Puppets
- 5. Carolina: Noah Hanifin, via Canes Country
- 6. New Jersey: Mathew Barzal, via In Lou We Trust
- 7. Philadelphia: Ivan Provorov, via Broad Street Hockey
- 8. Columbus: Zach Werenski, via The Cannon
- 9. San Jose: Pavel Zacha, via Fear The Fin
- 10. Colorado: Mikko Rantanen, via Mile High Hockey
There was some debate among the staff, with Timo Meier, a favorite among a lot of community members, available and Mikko Rantanen, who was our choice in our own LBC mock draft (nabbed at 10 by Mile High Hockey), strongly considered, but with things falling a different way in SB Nation's mock draft, our Shane O'Donnell felt he had a strong inkling on whose name GM Dale Tallon would call if he stepped to the podium with this particular group of players still on the board, firmly pointing us in the direction we took.
With the 11th overall pick in SB Nation's 2015 NHL mock draft, the Florida Panthers are proud to select, from the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, forward Lawson Crouse.
Size with the scoring to come later?
Lawson Crouse is one of the most about debated prospects in recent memory, as scouts love his size and physical play, but he hasn't put up the offensive numbers that suggest he should go this high. In 56 games this season, Crouse scored 29 goals and dished 22 assists, giving him 51 points. By contrast, defenseman Mitchell Vande Sompel, who is ranked outside of the top 30 by many, had 63 points in 58 games. However, Crouse did manage to almost double his productio from his first OHL campaign, so he is trending in the right direction.
Despite the somewhat mediocre production numbers-wise, Crouse has wowed many with his two-way play and his commitment to doing things right, even when he isn't contributing offensively. From the scouts:
Dan Marr - Director of NHL CS: "He's a big-bodied guy, protects the puck and is solid on his skates. He can see the ice and barrels through everyone. He's got good hands to go along with that big body."
Adam Kimelman of NHL.com (Apr.20th): "Any team could use a player with this kind of size (6-4, 215 pounds) and skill set. He protects the puck well and is strong on his skates. Fearless and has the size to skate through anything that gets in his path, he showed versatility by playing a fourth-line energy role for Canada at the 2015 WJC."
Mike Morreale of NHL.com (Apr.20th): "A 6-foot-4, 215-pound power forward who is engaged physically each time he steps on the ice, he led the Frontenacs with 29 goals, two shorthanded goals and 51 points in 56 games. Some scouts have compared his style of play to Hockey Hall of Fame member Cam Neely and Eric Lindros."
Future Considerations: 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. (August 2014)
Ben Kerr -"Was part of Team Canada's Ivan Hlinka winning squad this summer leading the team with 6 goals in 5 games. He has followed that up by making the World Junior Team and playing an important defensive role on the fourth line and penalty kill. Others have Crouse slightly higher than I do, and while I like him enough to have him in the top 10, and he's a very complete player, I'm just not convinced about his high end offensive upside right now. Don't get me wrong, I think he can be a top 6 forward at the next level, there are just some questions about whether or not Crouse has enough offensive potential to be a first line player. He has 18 goals and 28 points in 36 games for Kingston so far this year. At 6'4″ and 212 pounds Crouse is a budding power forward. He has a powerful skating stride, but could work on his first step and acceleration. That good power allows him to fight through checks and get to the net. He loves to get in the forecheck, and finishes his hits along the boards. He is very good in protecting the puck in the cycle and has the soft hands and can bang in goals from the front of the net. Lawson Crouse is also an excellent penalty killer, and has excellent defensive instincts. If he can show some more offense down the stretch, he could rise rapidly on my final rankings."
He's a good fit for the Panthers
Cleary, Crouse is a defensive stalwart and his penalty killing ability is another facet that would be very welcome in Sunrise. His offensive potential, however, is still in question, and that may make him a bit of a stretch at eleventh overall with players like Meier and Kyle Connor still on the board. That being said, with the all-around game and intangibles he brings to the table, Crouse checks many boxes on the Panthers' needs list and if he could keep upping his offensive game, he could quickly become another integral piece of Cats burgeoning core that includes Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau and Calder Trophy nominee, Aaron Ekblad.