Sean Couturier was taken by the Philadelphia Flyers eighth overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He was coming off his second consecutive 96 points season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. A case of mononucleosis affected Couturier’s stock in his draft year, giving the Flyers the opportunity to draft the talented center.
Defense is something that has followed Couturier his entire career. Entering the league at just 18 years of age, the Flyers have trusted Couturier to play the role of a third line checking center. He was often matched up against opponent’s top lines. And it was a role he excelled in, none more impressive than shutting down Evgeni Malkin in the 2012 playoffs. Couturier would get his first NHL hat-trick during that series as well.
The offense was not quite there when he first came into the league, however. Coming off two consecutive 96 point seasons, there was an expectation that Couturier could transition some of that into the NHL. In his first season, Couturier posted 13 goals and 14 assists in 77 games.
Flashforward to the present and the 25-year-old forward is excelling as a number one center. He is on pace to shatter his career highs in all categories. Already at a career-high 16 goals, Sean Couturier is only seven off of his career high in points. And the Flyers are only 36 games into the season.
Sean Couturier’s Hard Work Is Finally Paying Off
It’s been a long road from where Couturier was when he first entered the league. Instead of being a checking center, he has found himself on the team’s top line with Claude Giroux. A move to left wing for Giroux gave Couturier the chance to prove to the Flyers that he had the offensive skill to belong up there. And he hasn’t let the team down as of yet.
36 games into the season, Couturier has 16 goals and 16 assists. His career high in goals previously was 15, set back in the 2014-15 season. He has twice reached the 39 point mark, most recently in 2015-16. Couturier knows exactly how he’s been able to get to this point in his career.
“They’ve always believed in me and seen the potential in me,” Couturier said. “To get a chance this year, it’s nice. At the same time, it’s a lot of hard work too in the offseason. The message was, ‘If you’re gonna play 18, 19 minutes a night you gotta be in good shape.’ I think this summer I took it pretty seriously. So far, it’s paid off.”
Couturier ended the first month of this season with nine goals in 12 games. He didn’t reach the nine-goal mark until February last season. He would finish that season with 14 goals.
High Level Of Play With Claude Giroux
Not only has Couturier’s play overall taken a jump this season, his play with Giroux has put the two towards the top of the league. The right wing has changed a few times since the season opener, but both Couturier and Giroux have been a constant on the team’s top line.
To go along with Couturier’s 32 points, Giroux is second on the team with 42 points. Giroux’s resurgence can likely be attributed to his recovery from abdominal surgery the season before. But it doesn’t take away from what the top line has been able to do.
Overall the Flyers as a team have scored 99 goals on the season. Giroux and Couturier combine for about 34% of those goals. Their 74 points combined account for about 37% of all points scored by the Flyers.
When compared to the rest of the league, Giroux and Couturier aren’t the highest scoring duo. That honor goes to John Tavares and Josh Bailey. The two each have 48 points for a combined 96 on the season. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are a close second with 94 combined points. It doesn’t take away from how much the Flyers duo has helped the team, however.
With the Flyers top line broken up from where it started, it’s a small sample size to judge what the line has done now. But you can look back at what the original trio accomplished together during the first few months of the season.
According to Left Wing Lock, the trio of Jakub Voracek, Couturier and Giroux were the best in the league at scoring goals while also preventing them. The group scored 23 goals together, while only allowing 10. That’s a percentage of 69.7% for that trio. While the offense has taken a jump, the defensive skill that Couturier possesses has remained constant.
That line was broken up during the team’s losing streak but shows the growth that a player such as Couturier has had this season.
A Healthy Season Thus Far
Injuries have unfortunately followed Couturier throughout his career. His last full season was back in 2014-15 when he played all 82 games that year. The following year he played in just 63 and finished with 66 games last season.
Couturier has dealt with a couple of concussions, an MCL injury, an AC sprain, etc. throughout his career. The injuries, for the most part, kept him out for significant periods of time. And it showed how much the team valued Couturier in the games that he missed.
With Couturier playing at such a high pace, one can hope that his unfortunate injury luck has turned around. The Flyers will hope that Couturier is able to keep up this level of play. The team currently sits six points out of the playoff picture.
It hopefully won’t be that way for long if Sean Couturier continues to score at the pace he is at now.
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