If Lawson Crouse hadn’t shown up on the hockey horizon, we might not have had anything to talk about for the 2015 draft. That’s a stretch but the fact remains Crouse has—more than anyone in recent history—divided talent assessors in a big way. Is he a great prospect or a kid who developed into manhood far ahead of the other teenagers of his generation? Where will he play? Can he score consistently? Does he check well enough to be considered an impact checker? What the hell is an impact checker? Lawson Crouse is exhausting even just to talk about. Wait until you see him play!
Let’s begin with what we know for sure. Lawson Crouse will not win a Lady Byng Trophy, he will not beat any of Wayne Gretzky’s scoring records and I don’t think he’ll ever play goal.
On Kingston LW Lawson Crouse: “I see many Cam Neely-type traits in Crouse. He could one day be that type of player.”
— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) March 28, 2015
Seems like the whole analytics vs. old-school hockey debate is coming down to the career of Lawson Crouse..
— HG in Iceland. (@HG_Personal) March 29, 2015
— Eric Johnson (@EricJJohnson79) March 26, 2015
— ISS Hockey (@ISShockey) March 7, 2015
“Lawson Crouse is not in our top ten right now.” Kyle Woodlief.
— OilersNow (@OilersNow) March 10, 2015
Sam Bennett has 8 points in 5 games but Lawson Crouse’s points per game has actually dropped. How do we narrative our way out of this?
— Matt Henderson (@Archaeologuy) March 8, 2015
See what I mean? This is the hockey equivalent of the evolution theory,
Mother-in-law’s coming to visit at Easter and wearing a condom: Nobody’s
happy and there is no room to give.
When I find myself in times of trouble, Corey Pronman comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let us see.
A comment on the Lawson Crouse debate: I reject the premise that the argument over the merits of this (cont) http://t.co/zznTHhUlmi
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) March 8, 2015
Here is the entire tweet from Mr. Pronman:
I reject the premise that the argument over the merits of this prospect
is between the “objective” camp, the one that favor quantifiable
evidence, and the “saw him good/physical fetish/size” camp. Instead the
debate is over what kind of evidence we should value. On one hand, we
have data that people have used for decades, points. On the other, we
have data that is not available to us via public offerings, but scouts
universally across the industry have noted in their evaluation. The
elite two-way play, the very significant scoring chance differentials in
the OHL, and in several International showings especially relative to
his age and usage.Lawson Crouse is not the “big and dream on him prospect.” This is a
fundamentally different type of debate than others some may have been
familiar with over the years with other big yet low upside prospects.
So, what the scouts (and Corey) are telling us is this: Despite the shy boxcars, Crouse delivers elite two-way play and significant scoring-chance differentials. I can’t comment on the scoring chances, that’s something that needs to be tracked over an entire season. If Crouse’s linemates (and Crouse) aren’t cashing, then it could be a full season slump that is obscuring real offensive talent.
My experience in watching prospects makes me suspicious.
The other item is the more interesting for me. Having grown up watching hockey during an era with incredible two-way wingers (Bob Gainey, Craig Ramsay and Donny Marcotte played in the Eastern Division against each other, beginning in 1973-74 and they were all splendid) I do believe there are players who can make a difference in that manner. A current forward example? Patrice Bergeron. Pavel Datsyuk. A player who can consistently tilt the balance and make a difference without the puck has high value. How would we know it to be true? Scouting reports, anecdotal information.
Mike Morreale, NHL.com: “Crouse is still a curious player to me. Will he be a consistent top-six
or bottom-six player in the NHL? The guess here is that the team
selecting him at the 2015 NHL Draft will expect him to play a top six
for sure. He’s succeeded on every level and played a significant
fourth-line role for Canada at the WJC. Crouse is a physical presence
who is extremely tough for opponents to handle in battles. He goes to
the net hard and crashes around in front. He has an incredibly powerful
Brock Otten, OHL Prospects: “I’m a big believer in his offensive potential. Since returning from the
U20’s, Crouse is creating his own scoring chances and is succeeding as the
focal point of an offensive attack. As he gains confidence and gets more
skilled linemates, his offensive contributions will only increase.
Everything else about his game is a coaches dream.”
Dennis MacInnis, Scouting Director ISS Hockey: “Good offensive
instincts and defensive capabilities. Very tough to play against. Strong
puck possession. Shields the puck well. Quality total package player.”
- Mark Seidel: “A combination of Brendan Shanahans game with Jeff Carters feet…Can
play any way you want to play…Will continue to evolve offensively.”
- He is listed as a very hard worker (No. 1 in his conference) but not among the top three defensive forwards in his conference in the annual OHL coaches poll.
WHERE WILL HE GO?
I will tell you that Corey Pronman is a guy I rely on heavily for this kind of information. He’s very thorough and balanced in his assessment.
I also entered this profile looking for evidence, any evidence, of a connection to Donnie Marcotte (who was a rugged player with fantastic checking ability). I found it, from Pronman (‘elite two-way play’) and from Mr. MacInnis above. He may well be an outstanding two-way winger as an NHL player. That’s an exceptionally valuable player.
Lawson Crouse does not deliver top end offense in the OHL, history has taught me that’s a major tell in terms of projecting into the NHL. The team acquiring Crouse may believe he’ll score 30 goals in a year—and he may!—but it is very likely his offensive peak occurs as a complementary player. I would point you to some outstanding work on the subject by Paul Berthelot.
Where will Crouse go in the draft? I bet it’s inside the top 10. I think he may well be the kind of player who is viewed as being a disappointment for much of his career while also delivering many things that help a team win hockey games.
If the hockey Gods smile on him, Crouse will go to a mature team in no hurry to have him start cashing in goals at the NHL level. His 29 goals in 56 OHL games suggests we’re dealing with a player who will likely spend much of his career outside the scoring lines.