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Lawson Crouse eager to impress Coyotes

Forward will do 'whatever it takes' to play in NHL after trade from Panthers

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

Lawson Crouse has yet to make his NHL debut but he's hoping a change of scenery will fix that.

Crouse, a 19-year-old forward, was acquired by the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, along with forward Dave Bolland, from the Florida Panthers in a trade for a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and a conditional second-round pick in 2018.

"I think it's a very good opportunity for myself to come into camp this year and show them what I'm made of," Crouse said, "and show them that they made a good decision by reaching out and trading for me."

Crouse, the No. 11 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, had 62 points (23 goals, 39 assists) in 49 games with Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League and no points in two games with Portland of the American Hockey League last season.

Coyotes general manager John Chayka said he envisions Crouse (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) being part of Arizona's core for years to come.

"In our opinion, [Crouse] was a guy that is rare to find, difficult to obtain," Chayka said. "Certainly once he becomes established in the League, those players usually are locked up well into their 30s. ... We were able to get a young player that still has his entry-level contract intact, that we think will be in the organization for a long, long time and add a lot of value.

"We just felt like, taking a broader look at our prospect pool, if there was one area where we can improve upon, it would be adding a power forward of Lawson's ability."

Crouse knows it won't be easy to make the Coyotes, who have four other left wings on the roster (Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, Jamie McGinn).

"I'm going to go in there and try to earn a spot," Crouse said. "I'm a very competitive guy. I love to win, I'm going to do whatever it takes to make that team. However they want me to play, that's how I'm going to play. For me, I think that's doing the little things right, being a team guy and do whatever I can to make that team.

"All season long and all summer long, I've been building towards making the NHL this year, and this offseason has been very intense. I'm doing whatever I can to be part of the NHL [this season]. I feel like I'm ready. Mentally, I feel like I'm ready, and it's just about making a first impression as soon as I get to camp and building from there."

Crouse can take some inspiration from the fact several prospects he has played with and against have made the Coyotes as rookies.

"I'm familiar with a lot of their prospects," Crouse said. "I work out with Dylan Strome here in Toronto. I've played with Max Domi and Anthony Duclair in the World Juniors. I've played against a lot of up-and-coming prospects in the [Canadian Hockey League]."

Injuries limited Bolland, 30, to 25 games with the Panthers last season, when he had one goal and four assists. He had one assist in two games with Portland, where he was sent last December on a conditioning stint.

Bolland helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013, highlighted by his game-winning goal at 19:01 of the third period in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins.

Chayka said Bolland, who has a lower-body injury and last played Dec. 12, was part of the trade to alleviate NHL salary cap space for the Panthers. Arizona will pay his $5.5 million salary this season.

"This trade was about Crouse," Chayka said. "David Bolland was a necessary component to execute the deal in the manner that we did. My understanding is that he won't be ready to play for the foreseeable future, so that was part of this transaction."

The Panthers have had a busy offseason, signing goaltender James Reimer and securing members of their core for the future, including defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Jason Demers and forward Vincent Trocheck. The desire for more cap space was a big reason they were willing to part with one of their top prospects.

"It's incredibly hard any time you give up a good young player," Panthers assistant general manager Eric Joyce said. "Unfortunately, that's the cost of doing business. Every hockey trade you try to make has to be beneficial to your team in some way, and also the team you're dealing with.

"They coveted Lawson and what he brought to their stable of prospects. They were pretty adamant. We tried a lot of different ways to work around trading Lawson, but they were pretty adamant he was the centerpiece of any deal that would help us alleviate Dave's cap hit."

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