When F Lawson Crouse was selected by the Florida Panthers in the first round (11th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft, he knew it could take some time adjusting to his new surroundings.
Visiting South Florida for the first time, Crouse quickly discovered that the hot and humid summers in "SoFla" were much different than the weather up in his hometown of Mt. Brydges, Ontario.
With the Panthers' annual Development Camp on the verge of beginning, Crouse's first stay in the Sunshine State was extended a few days. Luckily for Crouse, he had a familiar face on his way to South Florida, and someone with a lot of experience being a stranger in a strange land.
Panthers prospect F Juho Lammikko dealt with new surroundings quite a bit last season, to say the least.
Between making the jump to North America from Finland, being drafted into the National Hockey League in Philadelphia, skating in his first Development Camp in South Florida and then playing for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, the young Finnish winger knew all about being a new face in a new place in 2014-15.
After being drafted, Crouse quickly connected with Lammikko, his Kingston teammate, to celebrate the news that they once again would be skating together on the same team at Development Camp.
“I actually was on the phone with him right away,” said Crouse. “He sent me a picture of him smiling, so that cracked me up a little bit.”
Despite Lammikko having experience playing against men in Finland, it was his new journey to North America that could have been one of his toughest tasks to date. Recognizing this, Crouse helped the Noormarkku, Finland native through learning a new language, a new culture and a different style of game. Through this, the two Kingston forwards hit it off.
“He came in and his English wasn’t very good,” said Crouse. “It’s a definitely a different style of play coming from Europe, so I kind of tried to guide him along. Whether it was hanging out with him inside the rink or helping him before or after practice, we went through a lot together.”
“We hung out quite a bit, pretty much every day. He’s a great guy. I love to be around him. He’s a fun guy to be around. ”
Playing on a line together for parts of the year, Crouse (51 points) and Lammikko (44 points) both brought out the best in each other, finishing as Kingston’s first and fourth highest scorers, respectively, during the regular season. Helping Kingston to a 81.6 penalty kill percentage (sixth in OHL), Crouse and Lammikko proved that their on-ice chemistry went beyond just the ability to produce points for the Frontenacs, as they also excelled together on the defensive side of the game.
“We played a little bit on a line together last year,” said Crouse. “We killed penalties together, so we do have a chemistry, I guess you could say.”
Paired together for most of the scrimmage-style skills competition on the final day of Development Camp, the two wingers flashed some of that chemistry. Finding each other on the ice for scoring opportunities and finding results, the two youngsters from Kingston gave a glimpse of not only what they can do now, but what they could do in South Florida for years to come.