BUFFALO -- This is the chance Kingston Frontenacs left wing Lawson Crouse has been waiting for at the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine.
An opportunity to speak his piece and defend himself during the interview process at First Niagara Center before giving it his best shot in the fitness tests at nearby HarborCenter.
Crouse (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) is No. 5 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft.
"Everyone wants to be the best they can be, and to do that you have to take down some of the other guys. But that's just the competitiveness we all have as hockey players," Crouse said. "The Combine is just a way to get a grade of how strong and fit you are as a person and player. I'm out to beat everyone here, but that's just the type of person I am. I know I probably won't do that in all the categories, but I'll do my best to try."
That's the competitive verve Crouse brings each game and each shift. He led the Frontenacs with 29 goals and 51 points in 56 games and also helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"Playing at the World Junior Championship was a huge stepping stone for me, especially since it was a surprise invite for myself," Crouse said. "When I made the team I was thrilled and it was a huge learning experience for me just playing with the top-end guys. You can really see how mature they were as players and people. I took away a lot to learn."
Despite the impressive resume, many draft pundits aren't sure if picking Crouse in the top 10 is the best idea. However, NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards feels drafting Crouse outside the top 10 would be a mistake.
"I think you'd have to be nuts not to take Crouse," Edwards said. "You get a guy that size ... I haven't seen a guy who physically dominates opponents like this since Eric Lindros. He drops the shoulder and takes the puck to the net. And he takes it wherever he wants it."
Crouse said isn't fazed by the projections, good or bad.
"I still believe in myself as a player; there are other tremendous offensive players in this draft," Crouse said. "I play my game, and whether that's agitating, throwing hits, fighting, sticking up for teammates or scoring, I'll try and balance a little bit of everything, play a strong defensive game with my leadership abilities."