MONTREAL – Hockey Canada wants older players at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.
They obviously made an exception for center Connor McDavid, but they also made one for forward Lawson Crouse, who plays for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.
Crouse and McDavid are the only two players eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft who were invited Monday to take part in the Canada National Junior Team selection camp, slated to start Dec. 11 in Toronto.
McDavid is a returning player and expected to be a top-two pick in the next draft, so his invitation was a formality. But the inclusion of Crouse on the list stood out, because his name was the only other one besides McDavid’s without an NHL affiliated team next to it.
Hockey Canada director of player personnel Ryan Jankowski said a big reason Crouse is on the list is because he is built like a player considerably older than 17. That’s what set Crouse apart from some of the other draft-eligible players vying for a spot at the camp.
“Mitch Marner, Nick Merkley, Dylan Strome are all great players, they’re all very talented,” Jankowski said. “Lawson Crouse is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. We just think he has the ability to take the wear and tear of a tournament such as this. That’s not to discount the other guys, it’s just that Lawson is big, strong, plays a very straight forward game, he’s exceptional on the penalty kill and he’s got 12 goals now in the Ontario Hockey League, which for a big man at 17 is really good as well.
“Other guys are great players and I hope they don’t feel slighted, they’re going to get their opportunity, but in this case because of his size and his strength, and it being a big man tournament, we felt Lawson was a real credible guy for us.”
In addition to his 12 goals in 24 games with the Frontenacs, Crouse also has 55 penalty minutes. While Canada won’t necessarily be looking for him to find the penalty box at the tournament, there is hope Crouse displays a rough edge when he arrives at the selection camp.
“He’s got to do what Lawson does very well which is to forecheck and hit and bang and maybe put the odd puck in the net in the blue paint,” Jankowski said. “But we know those are things that Lawson’s capable of doing. It will be interesting to see the level Lawson participates at camp with. We know he’ll come in and make an impact, it’s just a question of where it is in relation to everyone else fighting for the same spots.”
Crouse is tied with Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Frederick Gauthier as the tallest forward invited to the selection camp at 6-foot-4, and his listed weight of 211 pounds is lighter than only Gauthier (215 pounds) and Anaheim Ducks prospect Nick Ritchie, who is listed at 6-foot-2.5 and 226 pounds. Jankowski thinks Crouse has a similar set of tools as Ritchie.
“If we’re looking at Lawson as a 19-year-old in this tournament, it’s very similar to the way Nick Ritchie plays,” Jankowski said. “At 17, it’s a little bit different. I think Nick will bring more offense than Lawson from a natural standpoint, but I don’t discredit Lawson’s ability to do a lot of those things too.”