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Kingston's Crouse finds fun snack on Everglades tour

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Riding on an air boat through the Everglades can make a guy hungry. And at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Kingston Frontenacs left wing Lawson Crouse can put away some food.

That's how the top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft found himself chomping on a worm during a trip to Everglades Holiday Park on Thursday.

"Eating worms isn't my specialty," he said.

But with $100 from Erie Otters center Connor McDavid on the line, Crouse chowed down.

"We saw only two alligators at that point and I wanted to spice it up a little bit," Crouse said. "I wouldn't normally do that but it was all fun."

The fun started with a visit to a snake exhibit. The prospects got take turns getting close with a python, and then London Knights center Mitchell Marner took a selfie with Butters, an albino red-tail boa constrictor.

"I never really held a snake," Marner said. "The [snake handler] said put out your hand and she'll come to you. It was pretty fun having that happen. My mom hates snakes so I mostly did it to get under her skin."

McDavid and his Erie teammate, Dylan Strome, and Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin also had fun with the snakes. Boston University center Jack Eichel, however, kept a very safe distance.

"I like looking at them when they're far away," he said.

The hour-long air-boat tour included a lesson on the grass and plant life that make up the Everglades, and picturesque views of native birds, fish, iguanas and two alligators, including one about eight feet long that got an up-close view.

"That was a little unexpected," McDavid said. "But that's why we come out here, to see all that."

It's been a busy week in Florida for the top prospects, including media events like batting practice at Marlins Park on Wednesday and a clinic with area youth hockey players earlier Thursday.

But a boat tour through one of the largest natural wildlife areas in the United States made for a memorable change of pace.

"It's nice," McDavid said. "Gives us a nice break, makes the day go by a little quicker as we get closer to the draft."

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