In a surprise early morning move yesterday, the Arizona Coyotes acquired Dave Bolland and Lawson Crouse from the Florida Panthers in exchange for two draft picks in 2017 and 2018. With this move the Coyotes have acquired a shiny new prospect, who seems likely to make the team in the next few years.
So who is Lawson Crouse? What does he bring to the Arizona Coyotes? And why is he worth two draft picks and David Bolland's contract?
The former 11th overall pick from the 2015 Draft, Crouse had a solid season last year as assistant captain of the Kingston Frontenacs. In 49 games he scored 23 goals and registered 39 assists, and reduced his penalties from 70 during the 2014-15 season to 56.
Unlike many of the Coyotes other prospects, Crouse isn’t a player who has dominated the score-sheet in major-junior. Compared to Conor Garland's 128 points, Christian Dvorak’s 121 points, or Dylan Strome’s 111, Crouse’s 62 points in the 2015-16 season doesn’t seem like much, but you will find few people who don’t think that Crouse will be a legitimate NHL player.
At 6’4", 211 pounds, Crouse surpassed Dylan Strome as the Coyotes’ largest prospect. Hockey’s Future describes him as a physical winger who is able to use his size well at the junior level, who has a solid overall game.
He can forecheck and cycle the puck better than most, if not all, his age and is an adept defensive forward. Crouse isn’t the fastest skater but his skating is far from a weakness, and, despite concerns over his offensive ability, he has a quick shot and uses his size to clean up any garbage in front of the net.
Luckily the Coyotes just hired a new full time skating coach to assist him with his skating.
We asked Todd Little of Litter Box Cats what the opinion of Crouse is in Florida and received the following response:
Lawson Crouse is blessed with prototypical power forward size and intangibles for days. The question is, will his offensive game ever develop to anywhere near the point you'd expect from a player picked 11th overall in the draft? It's early days yet, but his recent performance at Florida's development camp left many uneasy on this point.
After a busy (and expensive) summer, the Panthers are clearly in win-now mode, meaning Crouse was most likely headed back to junior this season and possibly to AHL [Tucson] next year. This is a trade that works for all parties involved. Crouse's path to NHL just became a lot clearer, as his toughness and upside should be most welcome in Arizona.
If he sticks and produces, the Coyotes have added yet another highly-touted, young player to its core, and it's possible Lawson could end up as the team's captain sometime down the road; he's that kind of person. Meanwhile, by shedding the remainder of Dave Bolland's contract, the Panthers now have the cap space to sign Jonathan Huberdeau to a long-term extension and added a couple picks in the process.
If Crouse doesn’t make the Coyotes out of training camp he will have to return to the OHL. The fact that he plays on the left and there is a pick incentive to return him to juniors makes it seem likely that the Coyotes will return him to Juniors. Physically Crouse can dominate most players in the OHL, making him one of the players you would prefer to see in the AHL.
While questions remain about whether Crouse deserved to get drafted as high as he did, this is seems to be a case of the Coyotes getting a very good prospect who should be ready in a few years in exchange for eating 3 years of a bad contract.