Less than a month before the start of training camp, Coyotes General Manager John Chayka continues to wheel and deal. On Thursday, he added power forward prospect Lawson Crouse to the mix in a trade with the Florida Panthers that also included veteran forward Dave Bolland.
“This trade's about Lawson Crouse,” Chayka said. “We just felt like by taking a broader look at our prospect pool, if there was one area where we could improve upon, it would be adding a power forward of Lawson's ability. As far as David Bolland goes, that was a necessary component to execute the deal in the manner we did. He's a guy that is currently injured and my understanding is that he won't be ready to play for the foreseeable future so that was part of this transaction … For us, it's a cap hit, a $5.5 million cap hit, and that’s our liability on the trade.”
|Lawson Crouse. Photo by Getty Images. |
In Crouse, the Coyotes are getting a 6-foot-4, 220-pound left wing whom Florida snatched 11th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. Crouse has yet to play in the NHL but his resume includes three seasons with Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League. His trophy case includes a gold medal he won with Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“He's a unique guy because usually when you add a guy with the type of size he has you usually give up a little bit in skating or you give up a little bit in skill,” Chayka said. “He's a guy that you add the size and he actually enhances that for your entire group. In our opinion, it was a guy that's rare to find, difficult to obtain. Certainly, once they become established in the league, those players are locked up well into their 30s and then you end up trying to maybe overpay for a player that has these attributes that's not in the prime of his career. We were able to get a young player that still has his entry-level contract intact and we think will be with the organization for a long, long time and add a lot of value.”
Crouse is eager to get to training camp. He, like Chayka, believes he is prepared to make the jump from junior hockey to the NHL.
“Obviously I think it (the trade) is a very good opportunity for myself to come into camp this year and show them what I’m made of and show them they made a good decision by reaching out and trading for me,” Crouse said. “All summer long I’ve been building toward making the NHL this year. This off-season has been very intense. I’m doing whatever I can to be part of the NHL. I feel like I’m ready.”
If Crouse, 19, doesn’t play for Arizona this season he would return to junior hockey because he’s not eligible for the American Hockey League.
|Lawson Crouse. Photo by Getty Images. |
When Crouse arrives at Coyotes training camp he will see familiar faces.
“I’m familiar with a lot of the prospects,” Crouse said. “I actually work out with Dylan Strome in Toronto. I played with Max Domi and Anthony Duclair in the World Juniors and I’ve played against a lot of up-and-coming prospects in the CHL, so I know a lot about the young prospects that they have, which is nice to go into.”
Crouse said he learned valuable lessons playing at the World Junior Championship and it served him well on his journey to being drafted and then signing an NHL entry-level contract.
“My first World Junior in Toronto/Montreal was a dream come true,” Crouse said. “Growing up I had always dreamt of playing for my country and then to have the opportunity to do it at home here in Toronto/Montreal – it was quite the experience. I went in as an under-ager and was fortunate enough to make that team and I really connected with a lot of the older guys that kind of guided me along the way. What I learned playing with those older guys I can kind of continue to carry on throughout my career. I was with Duclair and Domi there so a lot of credit goes to those two guys. I was a young guy coming into that team and they really stuck by my side. It was nice to be under two players like them.”
Domi is thrilled the Coyotes acquired Crouse.
“It’s really exciting,” Domi told SportsNet. “He’s an unbelievable hockey player and an even better guy. It’s great for our group.”
|Lawson Crouse. Photo by Getty Images |
The Coyotes are deep at left wing with Domi, Jamie McGinn, Jordan Martinook and Tobias Rieder, presuming the latter re-signs before the season.
“I haven’t really had the chance to look at (the depth chart) too much, but nothing’s really going to change,” Crouse said regarding his approach to camp. “I’m going to go there and try to earn a spot. I’m a very competitive guy and I love to win. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make that team. However they want me to play, that’s the way I’m going to play. For me, I think that’s doing the little things right and being a good team guy.”
Chayka is looking forward to watching players compete for roster spots.
“Trying to handicap it at this point is useless because I know there are going to be surprises,” Chayka said. “When I say surprises, there are going to be pleasant surprises and there is going to be a lot of competition. As far as our left wing goes, depth is good. There's lots of competition there so they will compete and we will see who's the best four players to make our team better and have a good season.”
Crouse, whom a reporter nicknamed “The Sheriff” not too long ago based on how he protects teammates on the ice, credits his father, Mike, who coached him through minor hockey, for helping him get where he is today.
“He’s always there for me and he’s always pushing me to be the best that I can be,” Crouse said. “Without my dad, I’m not sure where I’d be. He critiques me when something needs to be said, and he also gives me a pat on the back when I do something well. I’d like to think my dad is my biggest fan but also my biggest critic. It’s not always easy having your dad tell you what to do when you think everything is kind of going your way, but he kind of keeps me humble. That’s what I love about him.”
As part of the trade, Florida will receive the better of Arizona’s two third-round draft picks in 2017 and a conditional second-round draft pick in 2018. If Crouse plays less than 10 games for the Coyotes this season, and he is not traded before the end of the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft, then the conditional second-round pick becomes another third-round pick in 2017.