The 2021–22 season is fast approaching. Here at Five For Howling, we’re taking a look at this year’s 25 best Arizona Coyotes players under the age of 25.
Unlike most of the players on this list, Lawson Crouse is an established NHLer with five seasons of top-level professional experience.
While Crouse may top out as a bottom-six forward and had an inconsistent 2020–21 season, he still has uses in many situations and, at 24, should have lots of hockey ahead of him.
2020–21 league: NHL (Arizona Coyotes)
NHL Games played: 51
NHL Goals: 4
KHL Assists: 9
Highest individual ranking: 5
Lowest individual ranking: 11
Last year’s ranking: 8
Lawson Crouse is big. Standing 6’4” and weighing in at 215 pounds, the 24-year-old winger certainly ranks among the Coyotes’ most physically imposing players.
Unfortunately, Crouse’s offense has yet to manifest itself to the level anticipated by Coyotes management when they acquired him from the Florida Panthers in 2016.
Selected 11th overall by Florida in 2015, the Panthers dealt him to Arizona just one year later in a deal to offload Dave Bolland’s cap hit. The Coyotes sent Florida two draft picks (one 2018 second-rounder and one 2017 third) in return.
Crouse made the NHL on a full-time basis in 2016–17 but spent most of the following season with the Tucson Roadrunners, ranking sixth on the AHL club (behind Dylan Strome, Mike Sislo, Michael Bunting, Nick Merkley, and Mario Kempe) with 32 points in 56 games.
In 2018–19, Crouse returned to the NHL and was one of 11 Coyotes to score double-digit goals. He finished the season with 11 markers and 25 points in 81 games; according to Evolving-Hockey’s “standings points above replacement” model, he provided the ‘Yotes with $300,000 of value against his $894,167 cap hit (the only positive single-season valuation of Crouse’s career).
On July 2, 2019, the Coyotes re-signed Crouse to a three-year deal carrying an AAV of $1.533 million. He subsequently posted his best statistical season to date, ranking fifth on the Coyotes with 15 goals in 66 games and repeating his 25-point performance from 2018–19. He added two goals in his first nine playoff games.
Evolving-Hockey’s model assessed Crouse’s defensive value in 2019–20 as being worth -2.1 goals above replacement, the worst mark on the Coyotes.
Crouse’s defensive play improved slightly in 2020–21, but his scoring touch almost completely evaporated. Despite averaging a career-high 14:18 in his 51 games, Crouse scored just four goals and converted on only 5.7% of his 70 shots. He averaged 6.66 shots per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, his lowest single-season mark since his rookie campaign.
With all of the Coyotes’ 2021 offseason departures, Crouse now ranks as one of the team’s longest-tenured players and could occupy a top-six role in the final year of his contract. With only Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, and Phil Kessel firmly ahead of him on the team’s depth chart, anything is possible.
Nevertheless, Crouse finally emerging as a top-six contributor in the NHL would come as an enormous surprise given his history in the league. He’s undoubtedly energetic, but he’s never been a massively impactful player in terms of driving offense or possession.
Perhaps Crouse can click with some of the team’s newer players or under André Tourigny. If not ... it might be time for him to find a new home.