Better With Popcorn

Couturier Gamble Continues to Pay Off

It’s no longer a surprise when a rookie has a big game for the Philadelphia Flyers.

With the season already at the halfway mark, the Flyers rookies have played a prominent role in the team’s success.

Prior to the start of the year, the team went through one of the most aggressive makeovers in team history, which made way for younger players to step up. That makeover included the trading of their captain Mike Richards and leading scorer Jeff Carter in exchange for role players, prospects and draft picks.

Part of the compensation in the Carter deal was the eighth overall selection in this past year’s entry draft, which ultimately became Sean Couturier.

With all things considered, including his 14 points thus far (eight goals, six assists) as well as his nomination on Thursday as one of 12 rookie All-Stars, Couturier is already living up to the hype of being a highly touted prospect.

However, there was a time when he may have not been on the team at all.

With a year remaining on his juniors eligibility status, the Flyers had the option of sending Couturier back for an additional year of development.

As per the collective bargaining agreement, the team had an 11 game grace period before they had to make the decision, which gave them an opportunity to see what he could do.

After demonstrating above average hockey IQ, masterful understanding of the defensive component of the game and handling the puck like a seasoned veteran, the 18-year old forward made it an easy decision for the organization to keep him with the professional team.

Add in the fact that he is a great penalty killer (second highest short-handed ice time average of any forward on the team) and it was a no-brainer to keep him around.

In retrospect, it seems like keeping Couturier never was a doubt. However, it actually took quite a bit of confidence on the organization's part to give him a chance to play.

Four months later and the team’s trust in Couturier continues to pay off. The All-Star nomination is merely icing on the cake on the gamble that ended up becoming Couturier.

When the team traded Carter, they took a huge risk in losing a great deal of production. In addition, there was risk in bringing Couturier up too soon and ruining his confidence before he even got his feet wet.

In recent games, Couturier has looked far more comfortable with the puck than he has at any other point this season.

After registering goals in his last three games, including what turned out to be the game-winning goal in Thursday night’s game against the New York Islanders as well as the game-winning goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in the game before, Couturier’s development is starting to show up more frequently on the score sheet.

He has registered six points in his last 10 games all while logging fourth line minutes.

It’s likely that Couturier will forever be linked to Carter. Whether it’s right or wrong, the two will consistently be compared to one another.

As of Thursday night, Carter only had 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) in 30 games.

With Carter’s injury troubles continuing and Couturier’s development flourishing, it’s hard to imagine that many fans regret the gamble the organization took with the trade.

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Comments

Mark Trible's picture

He's been one of the most consistent Flyers this season, regardless of ice time