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Crouse Highlights Top Left Wings Available in Draft

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks

By Mike G. Morreale |

There is no shortage of power forwards available in the 2015 NHL Draft, to be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

At the top of the list is left wing Lawson Crouse of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.

Crouse had an impressive season, which included helping Canada win a gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. But uncertainty looms on where he might be selected.

In's post-NHL Draft Lottery mock drafts, one writer had him going as high as No. 5 and the other at No. 10. The 6-foot-4, 211-pound left-shot forward is No. 5 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top draft-eligible North American skaters.

Many believe Crouse posed an even stronger offensive threat in his draft season than Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen when he starred for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League his draft year. Crouse averaged 0.91 points per game this season; Johansen averaged 0.97 points in 2009-10. Crouse is two inches taller and 19 pounds heavier than Johansen was in his draft year.

Crouse may not have the skill set that some of the other top-rated forwards possess, but that's because he prefers to go north/south in an effort to quickly get from point A to point B.

"I think you'd have to be nuts not to take Crouse [near the top of the first round]," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "To get a guy this size ... I haven't seen a guy who physically dominates opponents like this since Eric Lindros. He can drop the shoulder and take the puck to the net. I realize there are other skilled guys in this draft class and guys who have over 100 points, but Crouse was close to being a point-a-game guy.

"If he played with [Calgary Flames forward] Sam Bennett all year [in Kingston], he probably would have been averaging a point a game."

Here are's top 10 left wings eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft (positions provided by NHL Central Scouting).

1. Lawson Crouse, Kingston (OHL): A physically intimidating presence capable of fighting through checks and playing a power game. Crouse had 29 goals, 51 points, seven power-play goals, two shorthanded goals and a plus-10 rating in 56 regular-season games. He also possesses a cannon for a shot. "There really is no one in the OHL who can handle him physically," Edwards said. "Once he gets bigger and stronger he'll compete like that at the NHL level. He'll be very effective."

Type of player: Power forward

2. Kyle Connor, Youngstown (USHL): The 6-1, 177-pound University of Michigan recruit is No. 13 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. He was named the United States Hockey League Player of the Year and Forward of the Year after leading the league with 80 points (34 goals, 46 assists) in 56 games to snap his own record for the most points in a season by a Youngstown player. He also scored a career-high 32 power-play points and nine game-winning goals. He had 82 goals and 195 points in 174 games in the USHL.

Type of player: Offensive forward

3. Evgeny Svechnikov, Cape Breton (QMJHL): The 6-2, 199-pound native of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia is No. 17 on Central Scouting's final North American skater ranking. He was second among rookie scorers in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season with 78 points in 55 regular-season games. "He plays a physical game, doesn't back away, is aggressive on the forecheck and finishes checks. He's a pretty complete player for a first-year player in the league," NHL Central Scouting's Troy Dumville said.

Type of player: Power forward

4. Jake DeBrusk, Swift Current (WHL): The son of former NHL enforcer Louie DeBrusk became a go-to player for the Broncos in 2014-15. He led them with 42 goals, 81 points and 13 power-play goals in 72 regular-season games. Ranked No. 19 on Central Scouting's final North American skater list, DeBrusk (5-11, 171) also had 40 penalty minutes. "His work ethic is off the charts. But what also helps are those 42 goals scored," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan said. "Here's a 40-goal scorer who does the dirty work in front of the net on the power play."

Type of player: Two-way forward

5. Paul Bittner, Portland (WHL): In his third season with the Winterhawks he had 34 goals and 71 points 66 regular-season games after coming out of Crookston High School in Minnesota. Bittner (6-4, 204), No. 26 on Central Scouting's final North American list, had six goals and six assists in 11 games when linemate Nicolas Petan (Winnipeg Jets), who was second in the WHL in assists this season, missed time while playing for Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. "He's a smooth skater, really good hands and [can] make plays, and good in tight along the wall," NHL Central Scouting's John Williams said.

Type of player: Power forward

6. Filip Ahl, HV 71 Jr. (SWE-JR): A good skater with speed and balance, Ahl had 20 goals and 42 points in 34 games for the under-20 HV 71 team, and two assists in 15 games for the HV 71's team in the Swedish Hockey League. Ahl (6-3, 211) is regarded for his puck-handling and aggressiveness on the forecheck. Ranked No. 9 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of European skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, he is the son of retired Swedish goaltender Boo Ahl.

Type of player: Power forward

7. Anthony Beauvillier, Shawinigan (QMJHL): A strong two-way skater, the 5-10, 173-pound forward plays with plenty of energy and emotion, Beauvillier is No. 33 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. He was eighth in the league with 94 points and led Shawinigan with 42 goals, four shorthanded goals, 337 shots on goal and a 58.7-percent faceoff efficiency (922 of 1,571); he tied for the lead with 16 power-play goals. Beauvillier served as captain for Team Cherry at the 2015 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

Type of player:
Offensive forward

8. Dennis Yan, Shawinigan (QMJHL): The solid 6-1, 184-pound forward has quick hands, good puck-handling skills and is relentless in puck pursuit. Yan, No. 30 on Central Scouting's final North American skater ranking, was third in scoring for Shawinigan with 64 points (33 goals, 31 assists) in 59 regular-season games, and he had 10 power-play goals. "He knows how to get himself open in scoring territory," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "He has a nice touch around the net and can finish his scoring chance."

Type of player: Top-six scorer

9. Austin Wagner, Regina (WHL): Wagner (6-1, 178), No. 35 on Central Scouting's final North American skater ranking, had 20 goals, 39 points and a plus-13 rating in 61 regular-season games for the Pats. He is considered by many to be the fastest skater in the WHL. "He's a threat on the penalty kill and can break the game open at any time," Sullivan said. "He likes to play physical and aggressive and is exciting to watch. He would dominate on your fourth line and fit in well on the top line."

Type of player: Two-way forward

10. Roope Hintz, Ilves (FIN): An impressive two-way forward capable of playing wing or center, Hintz is No. 14 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters. The 6-2, 185-pound forward had five goals and 17 points in 42 games during a breakout season with Ilves; he also served as a captain for the under-20 Finnish team at the Four Nations Tournament in April. "He has good overall speed and uses his smooth skating and understanding of the game to his advantage," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He has a good set of tools, including excellent puck-handling skills, a hard, accurate shot and he makes smart passes."

Type of player: Power forward
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