20. Angus Crookshank (Reader Rank: 23, Last Year: N/A)
Have you ever watched your favorite hockey team draft a player that immediately catches your eye for one reason or another? Not in the “who the heck is that?” kind of way, but rather in the sense that there’s something interesting and memorable about them. Maybe they’ve got blazing speed. Maybe they’re a literal giant. Maybe they have an incredibly wholesome billet family.
In the case of the 20th ranked player in our Top 25 Under 25, what caught my attention was the sensational name “Angus Crookshank”.
Since being drafted in the 5th round by Ottawa in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the North Vancouver native has put in a ton of work to become known for more than just a remarkable moniker. During his first year with the University of New Hampshire, he posted 10 goals and 13 assists in 36 games and tying for second in points on his team; all of this as a freshman. That had me intrigued.
This past season was a bit of a roller coaster for Crookshank’s Wildcats. Despite finishing the regular season tenth out of eleven teams with a 5-13-3 record, they were able to end on a high note by upsetting eighth-seed Maine by a 7-2 score before nearly pulling off a major upset over top-seed Boston College, eventually losing to the star-studded squad 3-2.
Through three seasons, Crookshank’s points per game went from 0.64 to 0.65, and then to 0.90. That’s a solid rate of production for a former fifth-round pick, but perhaps not the sharp increase we might have hoped for after his freshman season.
That said, college scoring rates can be difficult to interpret. The entirety of Division I houses multiple conferences with varying playoff formats and levels of competition, and teams can go from absolutely dominant in one year to bottom feeders in the next as their roster turns over. As an example, Colin White’s freshman year with Boston College was actually more productive than his sophomore year. If that sort of drop happens in Europe, or god forbid the CHL, it’s a massive red flag. White’s turned out to be a pretty useful NHLer in 200 games with Ottawa thus far.
Fortunately for the Sens, Crookshank signed an amateur tryout contract with the Belleville Senators after the conclusion of his junior year and thus got a chance to compare himself directly to the other top prospects in the system. His 16 points in 19 games put him ahead of Egor Sokolov and Logan Brown, and just behind Alex Formenton. All three of which will be featured at some point in this year’s ranking — ahead of Crookshank.
Crookshank has shown himself to be a versatile player during his short time in Belleville, playing both at the centre or on the left wing. We’ve seen him force offensive zone turnovers and turn them into high danger chances, for example.
More Angus Crookshank? Yes. Great awareness followed by the post. pic.twitter.com/DbSLLdevhY— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) April 24, 2021
He’s also adept at executing set plays in the offensive zone — the following clips are of the same type of play, involving a “bumper” responsible for the one-touch pass to the player out in front, who finishes the play. Crookshank fills both of these roles successfully:
Angus Crookshank scored his 4th of the season earlier in the game off a slick feed from Olle Alsing— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) May 16, 2021
Crookshank has an *impressive* 14 points in 17GP with Belleville, good for fifth in team scoring – he would have put up some serious numbers on a good college team#GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/FUKPO3mLrF
At 5’11 and 181 pounds, he’s not going to destroy anyone with a single hit, but he’s always willing to engage and get under the skin of opposing players. Here, you’ll see him draw a penalty by keeping his feet moving, then he’ll proceed to aggravate the Manitoba player even further.
Angus Crookshank is good at getting under the skin of his opponents.— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) May 16, 2021
Manitoba's Hayden Shaw might hear from the AHL department of player safety after this crosscheck to the head/neck #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/Ae4zM59rZh
Interestingly enough, Crookshank only had 6 penalty minutes in those 19 games with Belleville, which implies he’ll be able to draw a lot more penalties than he’ll take. The fact that he’s primarily an offensive-minded player who also demonstrates strong awareness and positioning away from the puck, means he should be able to have a strong positive impact on his team’s success, regardless of what line he’s on.
Statistically, he’s a player who loves to create offense by shooting the puck. This past season with UNH, he averaged just over five shots on goal per game. Does he have the skill to convert on those many chances at the highest level? It’s still too early to tell. This probably isn’t a star in the making, but don’t rule out the possibility that he could eventually become a top-six contributor. This upcoming year will be a big one for Crookshank as he’s likely to assume a leading role for the AHL squad. If he continues to build strength and is able to manage a point-per-game campaign with Belleville this season, consider that a major step in the right direction.