As expected, the Florida Panthers took advantage of the deep pool of wingers in the 2015 NHL Draft, selecting Lawson Crouse of the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs with their first pick.
In 56 games this season, Crouse scored 29 goals and dished out 22 helpers for the Frontenacs. The big winger, who stands 6'4" and weighs 215 pounds, is already a defensive stalwart and his penalty killing ability is another facet that will help put him on the fast track for Sunrise. He does need to work on his offensive game, however, as scouts feel that a player of his size and ability should be producing bigger numbers at the major junior level.
Once Crouse reaches the NHL, he should fit in with the Cats other big-bodied forwards like Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov and Jimmy Hayes quite nicely. The Cats needed a big, rugged, talented prospect on the wing to pair with their powerful one, two punch down the middle and now they have got one. If Crouse can start finding the net more often, he definitely has top-six potential.
We'll get an up close look at Crouse's game later this summer when the Cats hold their annual development camp. The young winger will either make the Panthers or have to go back to the OHL for more seasoning as he is too young for the AHL.
The draft continues tomorrow at the BB&T Center with rounds two through seven, starting at 10 a.m.. The Panthers don't have a pick in round two, but they will choose twice in the third round, once in the fourth round, twice in the fifth round, once in the sixth round and finish up with two seventh round selections.