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Sleeper Picks: Cameron Crotty needs time to develop, but might be worth the wait

Cameron Crotty is an Ontario Jr. A defenseman who's taking his two-way talents to Boston University next season. He's unlikely to be selected in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft – and maybe not in the second round, either – but he has the skill set to turn into a valuable NHL player down the road.

The 2017 draft is less than two weeks away and there is still a lot to go over before the first selections are made in Chicago. Every year there are “sleeper picks” that may not be familiar names to the casual fan, but end up being significant NHLers in the following seasons. This year, I’m putting out a short series of profiles on the players I believe fit that category for 2017. Here is the second installment…

When talking to scouts, it’s always a positive when they bring up a kid’s name before you do. That happened to me with Cameron Crotty this year, a Boston University-bound defenseman with a lot of upside.

Playing for the Brockville Braves of the Central Canada League – a Jr. A circuit based around the Ottawa area – Crotty wouldn’t have been seen by many NHL fans this season. An early shoulder injury even kept the scouts waiting, but the mobile 6-foot-2, 188-pounder impressed once he got back on the ice.

“I really like him,” said one scout. “He’s got good size, he skates really well and he moves pucks.”

The key with Crotty is going to be patience. On bigger stages, such as the World Jr. A Challenge, he didn’t play particularly well in the eyes of scouts, but they’re willing to chalk that up to nerves at this point (Canada East tends not to be one of the stronger squads in the tourney, while Canada West has recently featured future NHLers such as Tyson Jost, Dante Fabbro and Cale Makar). Still, the youngster learned from that event as well as other Top Prospect games on the Jr. A circuit.

“Some of those experiences were very humbling, playing against some of the best Tier II players around,” Crotty said. “It gave me perspective in terms of where I’m at as a player and where I have to be in order to have success at the next level.”

Next year will be a very steep challenge. Boston University lost a lot of talent over the summer, including star blueliner Charlie McAvoy. While the Terriers don’t expect Crotty to bring the same offense as McAvoy did, Crotty’s mobility and puckmoving acumen will help stanch the bleeding. But he’ll have to earn his ice time, especially with another puck-mover, fellow 2017 NHL draft prospect David Farrance, also coming in.

“It’s up to me to determine my fate and how much ice I’m going to get,” Crotty said. “I’ve had to do the same thing in juniors, coming into teams with a ‘D’ corps that on paper was filled, but working my way in there and earning ice time. I’m looking to do the same thing at BU and hopefully have some success there.”

This is why I see Crotty as such an interesting sleeper pick: he may not make a big splash in college as a freshman, but he brings an intriguing skill set that will emerge over time and could be very valuable. Perhaps he never becomes a big points guy, but his current NHL idol – Vancouver’s Chris Tanev – doesn’t do that, either.

“I’m a two-way guy, obviously not a point-per-game guy,” Crotty said. “But moving the puck up the ice, chipping in when I can while taking care of the ‘D’ is what I’m strong at.”

Now think about how much hype is surrounding Tanev’s possible trade out of Vancouver these days. Tanev has never scored more than 20 points in an NHL season, yet his defensive ability – which is aided by his superb skating – is highly coveted.

Crotty was 5-foot-10 and 130 pounds when the Peterborough Petes took him in the seventh round of the 2015 OHL draft, but now he’s almost the same size as Tanev, with room to keep growing. He may not be an overnight sensation, but scouts are willing to wait – and Crotty has the attributes to make an NHL franchise very satisfied one day.

More NHL prospect profiles in Ryan Kennedy's 'Sleeper Picks' series:

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