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Versatile and efficient, Coyotes sign Crouse

The 22-year-old forward is coming off a season in which he set career highs in games played, goals, assists, points, and shots.

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf /

To be direct:

"He hunts pucks, he's responsible all 200-feet, he gets to the net, he plays with energy, and he's got physicality."

There are always reasons behind a significant decision made, especially an NHL contract. Those are the obvious, and rather convincing reasons articulated by Coyotes President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka following the signing of power forward and restricted free agent Lawson Crouse to a three-year contract on Tuesday morning.

Crouse's ever-growing game consists of a blend of attributes Chayka describes as "rare".

"He's a unique player, hard to find, so that was a big reason of why we traded for him [in 2017]," he said. "We think as our team grows here we're going to need players of his ability and role to continue to help our group, we don't have a lot of them in our organization, so having Lawson signed long-term is a good thing for us."

Having been with the organization for three seasons now, Crouse is coming off of a campaign in which he set career highs in games played, goals, assists, points, and shots.

"I'm really excited," he said of signing his new contract. "I guess you could consider that for the last three years I've called Arizona home. I love it there, I love the team, and we've made some good additions, it's kind of a really good balance between a great young determined core and some great veteran players that bring a lot more than just their play."

His story with Arizona exemplifies development in its truest form.

"Last year was a key stepping stone for me, I really opened my eyes at the end of the year at what I could potentially do and how much more I have to give," he added. "I'm a player that's determined, I want to get better each and every day, each and every year."

Crouse's trajectory and undeniable work ethic are big, broad factors into why the Coyotes aimed at securing his presence for the coming years on the second morning of the free agency period.

"I think as [last] season progressed he got more and more opportunity, he's a hard heavy player to play against, and not a lot of teams want to go back for pucks when he's on the ice," Chayka. "He was able to hold pucks, make plays, be more of a possession player as opposed to being a puck chaser, and while doing that and scoring some goals, he didn't lose the physical element of his game, and I think that's the key for him."

Playing in all but one of Arizona's 82 games last season, Crouse finished the year ranked 10th on the roster in points, taking notable advantage of consistent time in the lineup after spending most of the 2017-18 campaign in the AHL with the Tucson Roadrunners.

That opportunity, to be depended upon night-in and night-out, did wonders for poise.

"For me, it's about staying positive, staying confident," he said. "There's a difference between being confident and cocky, there's kind of that even-keel swagger that you have to have. You've probably heard it from a million players, but when you feel good and you feel confident, that's when you're playing your best, and for me, why not try and attack that mentally each and every day, and I feel like if I do that, my chances of success go up much more."

His game laced with versatility, Crouse has proven to be a reliable factor in most, if not all game situations, especially so that he's coupled his size with the ability to possess pucks to open and create plays for his linemates.

"I think he can play up and down the lineup," Chayka said of Crouse's all-around abilities. "He's good on the penalty kill and we hope there's room for him to evolve into more of a power play player as he develops his skill-set. He doesn't have to produce a ton to make an impact, and if he is able to produce he puts himself into a very scarce area in terms of productive power forwards, and we think that he has the capacity to do that."

Finding himself in a myriad of playing situations last season while the Coyotes' struggled to stay healthy, Crouse became seasoned with adapting to the team's needs

"I feel I'm a player that no matter if I'm playing on the fourth line, first line, second line, third line my game doesn't change, I play the same way," he said. "I try and play heavy, I try and play physical, I try and play smart, and it's just really believing in what you're doing and trying to do your best to overachieve and go above and beyond."

For as much praise as the 22-year-old has received for his performance on the ice, the way he handles himself away from the rink is held in the same regard.

"He's a quality kid, character kid and I think he's going to have a big summer and come to camp even better," Chayka said. "We view him as a core player, just his ability to play with an element that some of our other players don't have, and he's still very young."

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