We're starting to inch closer and closer to the Florida Panthers selection this year, and we've already gone through some of the most gifted prospects the NHL has seen in a long while. There's still value to be found, however, and the Philadelphia Flyers will be hoping to add a blue chip prospect to their organization.
The Flyers already have a wealth of defensemen in their organization, as Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim, and Robert Hagg all project to be top-four defenders, if not better. So, their selection in this draft will most likely be a forward. Ron Hextall is an old time Flyer, and will bring in a guy who can play with Claude Giroux, and do so while punishing the opposition.
With that in mind, with the seventh overall pick in the Litter Box Cats Mock Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers select:
Lawson Crouse - LW Kingston Frontenacs
Lawson Crouse is one of the most debated prospects in recent memory, as scouts love his physical play, but he hasn't put up numbers that suggest he should go inside the Top 10. In 56 games this season, Crouse scored 29 goals and helped on 22 others, giving him 51 points. By contrast, Mitchell Vande Sompel, who plays defense and is ranked outside of the top 30 by many, had 63 points in 58 games.
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."
Cleary, Crouse is a defensive stalwart. His offensive potential, however, is questionable, and that may make him a stretch for seventh overall. That being said, if any team is going to take a chance on him, it's most likely going to be Philadelphia (based on the GM's, uh, "colorful" history).