A high first round pick in the draft is a lot like a middle-in fast ball at the letters — you're going to try to hit a home run. Among prospects expected to go early in the first round, the one with the most room to grow may be Kingston forward Lawson Crouse.
Crouse possesses one of the biggest frames in the draft at 6-foot-4, 212 pounds. On the ice, he has improved steadily since he entered major junior hockey. As a 16-year-old, Crouse recorded 15 goals and 27 points. This season, he followed up his rookie campaign with 29 goals and 51 points in 56 games.
While those numbers may not be as impressive as other top prospects, his team played a role. The Frontenacs were the fourth lowest scoring team in the Ontario Hockey League with 196 goals and the lowest scoring team to make the playoffs. With 29 goals Crouse accounted for roughly 15 per cent of his team's goals for the season.
Internationally, Crouse represented Canada at the 2013-14 U-18 tournament and captured bronze. This season he was part of Canada's gold medal winning squad at the World Juniors despite being just 17 years old.
Crouse's physical ability is off the charts. He has one of the biggest bodies in the draft, skates well and imposes his physical will on opponents, particularly on the forecheck. He has a good set of hands and good offensive instincts, which help elevate his floor as a pro. At the very least, Crouse should be a quality third line player. If he cashes in on his potential, he could develop into a very impactful top-six forward.
Despite the number of exciting tools he brings to the table, Crouse does have his concerns. His ability to project as a surefire top-six forward has been called into question given the lack of consistent scoring at lower levels. While he will more than likely score enough to be an NHLer, it's a matter of if he will develop enough to turn his elite tools into elite production for the team that will spend a high pick on him.
Crouse will more than likely be one of the first 10 players to be selected on June 26.