Sean Couturier: 'Steal' of the Draft
He was ranked fifth by TSN expert Bob McKenzie going into the draft. Six of 10 scouts had him ranked in their top five and not one of them had him below eighth. So the question is: How did Sean Couturier slip down to the eighth spot in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft?
Drafted behind big names such as Nugent-Hopkins, Landeskog, and Larsson, how has Couturier fared so far in the NHL compared to these guys? Better than you may think, considering he was drafted behind all of them.
The first, second, and fourth picks are all currently active in the NHL:
Being compared to Pavel Datsyuk, you know the kid is going to be a playmaker. Weighing in at 175 pounds, 6' 1" Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers. Known for his elite vision, he can find his teammates from just about anywhere on the ice. The 18 year-old Canadian proved he could in the WHL, with 75 assists last season.
This season he has continued success in that area of play, with 22 assists through 40 games. He also has a nice 13 goals to go along with it. Nugent-Hopkins has been playing with top players Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, and is meeting expectations on that line.
Leading the Kitchener Rangers with the C on his sweater, Gabriel Landeskog was dubbed “The Swedish Mike Richards” by Rangers GM Steve Spott. He can intimidate people and dominate in the ugly areas on the ice. He won’t quit on any play, and is a good leader who can change the game with a big hit or fight. The Colorado Avalanche picked up a tough player with a high amount of skill.
His 28 point total through 55 games this season isn’t too far off Nugent-Hopkins’ 35, but his +/- of 14 definitely outweighs Nugent-Hopkins’ -3. He’s playing like a solid power forward on the right wing, piling up hits while using his size to get around players and score goals.
The Devils number one priority going into the draft was to get a top defenseman, and that’s what they got in Swedish native Adam Larsson. Like #1 pick RNH, Larsson has awesome vision and can make cross-ice passes with ease to set up the rush. He’s great at defending one-on-one situations. With great composure, he separates people from the puck and creates breakout situations from down low.
In his first 48 NHL games, Larsson was averaging 21:48 of play each night, ranking second among all rookies. He has an impressive 14 assists, and has two goals to go along with it. Unfortunately, on February 2nd, he suffered a lower back injury after taking a dirty hit from Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. He has not resumed skating since. To sum up his year so far, he’s had his ups and downs, and will most likely have a better season in the 2012-2013 NHL year.
You may have wondered why the third pick wasn’t included. Well, Jonathan Huberdeau is spending another year in Saint John with the Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. Him, along with picks 5-7 are not developing for one more year with their minor league teams.
Sean Couturier, meanwhile, was picked eighth and has made an immediate impact in the NHL. His 20 points (10G/10A) is no match to Nugent-Hopkins’ 35, but Couturier is being used in many key situations. Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette has seen his skill and put him out on the ice when need be.
Couturier is certainly a great penalty killer, and on a team that has been shorthanded 220 times, more than anyone in the league, he is racking up a lot of minutes in that department.
Couturier is definitely a more defensive player and has handled the role well. Another side to him is his offensive side, which can sometimes be overlooked because of his defensive talent. It took him a while to really get going in the score column, posting just five goals through his first 35 games, but from January 8-17 though, he went on a 5-games scoring streak. Two of his goals have come shorthanded, as well.
While he may not come close to the top leaders in points, Couturier can be used in all types of situations. For being just 19 years old, he is very mature and is developing quickly. He is seen out on the ice on many occasions when time is winding down, and has contributed to the team in many different ways.
The Flyers got a steal when Couturier slipped down to eighth in the draft. He was expected to go higher and surprisingly didn’t. Compared to all the players drafted before him, he looks great and is a well-rounded, versatile player. With great hockey-sense and the ability to play in all game situations, Sean Couturier is the type of player who could very well become a franchise player, and could help deliver the most prized trophy in the sport of hockey.