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2019 Tampa Bay Lightning draft profiles: Max Crozier is a RHD with offensive upside

The Lightning picked an overage defender in the fourth round.

2019 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7

After the third round of the NHL draft, guessing at who teams might select is almost impossible. Team lists vary so widely that names could come off the board in any order. With their fourth round pick, the Lightning selected Max Crozier from the Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL. He’ll be heading to Providence College this fall to start an NCAA career, making him the latest in a recent trend of the Lightning selecting NCAA bound players later in the draft.

Crozier was an overage player for this draft, having turned 19 in April. He scored 43 points in 60 games, which put him 5th among defenders in the USHL. Even for an overage player, that’s solid production. His 43 points placed him tied for 5th on the Stampede and their leading defender by 18 points ahead of first round pick Ryan Johnson. At 6’1 194 lbs, he’s right in the optimal range for a player in the modern NHL.

The scouting information on Crozier is somewhat limited, as it is with most prospects selected this late in the draft. We included excerpts from two different reports in our live draft blog, but I’ll summarize them here.

The report in the Hockey Prospect Black Book was not complimentary. Their scouts saw an undisciplined player whose production was mostly due to favorable special teams usage. They note that more than half of his points came on the power play, including 8 of his 10 goals. That puts a damper on any excitement his scoring totals might generate. The scouts also note that while he plays a pesky physical game, he crosses the line frequently, resulting in bad penalties and isn’t smart with his physicality. That risky play spills to the rest of his game where he makes bad reads defensively that put him out of position.

By contrast, Steve Kournianos saw a player with some upside. He liked Crozier’s physicality defensively and complimented his stickwork. He also praised his hockey sense and his passing ability, which goes in direct opposition to what the Black Book reported. In terms of the power play numbers, Kournianos saw Crozier as the driving force of a dominant special teams unit. He also noted that Crozier played in all situations including being a contributor on the penalty kill.

When we see such disparate reports on a player, it’s difficult to know exactly what to expect. The player the Black Book described doesn’t sound like one a team would draft, so the Lightning must be seeing something closer to what Kournianos saw. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Lightning scouts liked the combination of his offensive production with the physicality from a right handed defender. Any pick this late is a project by definition and it sounds like the goals for Crozier will be to play a smarter game and learn to use his peskiness to his advantage instead of it being a detriment.

In terms of places to make those improvements, Providence is a great option. The Friars finished tied for second in the always stacked Hockey East last year and made it all the way to the Frozen Four before being eliminated in the semifinals by Minnesota-Duluth. Crozier is one of four drafted players on their way to Providence along with winger Tyce Thompson, winger Patrick Moynihan, and center Tomas Mazura.

In terms of the Bolts pipeline, Crozier is probably at least a few years away from playing professional hockey. If everything goes well, he’s a player Crunch fans might see in Syracuse in 2022. So for now, he’s added to the long list of NCAA prospects in the Lightning organization and we’ll keep an eye on him as he tries to earn playing time in Providence.