Coming into the season, the Philadelphia Flyers decided to make some changes to their top line. Claude Giroux was moved over to the left wing and Sean Couturier was promoted to the top line center position. Giroux hadn’t played wing since his rookie season, while Couturier had never played on the top line. No one knew how this experiment was going to go.
The Flyers are a month into the season and the experiment has passed with flying colors. Giroux is off to one of his best starts and Couturier is over halfway to his career high in goals. It was expected that Giroux would bounce back from last season. However, no one knew just how explosive Couturier would become with this move.
“I’ve been waiting for a long time for this opportunity. So far, it’s been going good and hopefully, we can keep it up and do something special this year.” Couturier said earlier on in the season.
And something special he has certainly been a part of so far this season.
Sean Couturier Excelling As Number One Center
Couturier’s highest goal total was 15 back in the 2014-15 season. His highest point total was 39, which he posted in 2013-14 and 2015-16. The season is 12 games old and Couturier already has nine goals on the year. He has three multi-goal games and five total multi-point games. There are only five games where he was held without a point.
When taking a look at some of the top players in the league this season, you see names such as Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Ovechkin, Auston Matthews, etc. Couturier is putting himself in the same conversation as said players.
His 15 points have him tied for fifth in the league with players such as Ovechkin and John Tavares. His nine goals are tied for fourth best in the league.
Couturier is well known for his defensive efforts. It is a part of his game that he has excelled at. But it was the offensive game that wasn’t translating to the pro level.
Success In Juniors
Taken with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Couturier was coming off a 36 goal, 60 assist season for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QJMHL. He had 41 goals and 55 assists the season before.
Overall in his junior career, Couturier appeared in 184 games while posting 86 goals and 137 assists. He added 17 goals and 20 assists in 43 playoff games. The Flyers were hoping this success would translate to the NHL.
However, Couturier had 13 goals and 14 assists in his first season in 2011-12. He also contributed with three goals and 1 assist during the playoffs. Those numbers look good for someone in their rookie season, but not quite the numbers expected after putting up back-to-back 96 point seasons.
The seasons that followed weren’t adding up to what Couturier had shown in junior. Injury troubles have also followed Couturier in his career. He last played in all 82 games during the 2014-15 season. A healthy season and his new role on the team could help Couturier break out offensively.
Despite having a career high of 39 points, Couturier is still a vital part of the Flyers core. He has still been an offensive threat as well. Over the past two seasons, Couturier has 43 points at even strength. Since March of last season, Patrick Kane is the only player to have more points at even strength. It is a good sign for a team that had struggled to score at even strength.
Power Play Struggles
It’s Couturier’s number on the power play that had him struggling in recent years. position on the second unit was the half wall. But he has seen himself on the top unit recently. Coming into the game against the Coyotes, there was an 82 game stretch where Couturier had not scored a goal on the man advantage.
He only had 17 points on the power play during the last four seasons while spending 525:42 minutes at five-on-four. The move to the top power-play unit appears to be yet another promotion for Couturier this season.
I noted it in my column, but Couturier confirmed after the game that his time in the slot on PP1 wasn't a one-off. It's his job now.
— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) October 31, 2017
The promotion could be a chance for the Flyers to see if Couturier’s offensive surge will translate to the top power-play unit. The man-advantage is a place where the Flyers have often struggled. It hurt them in the 5-4 loss against the Ottawa Senators most recently. They went 0-6 on the PP, which included a 5-on-3 advantage.
It is also another opportunity for Couturier, Voracek, and Giroux to continue what they’ve been able to produce together. Add in Ivan Provorov and Wayne Simmonds and the Flyers top power-play unit has the chance to be successful more often than not.
The success Couturier has had at even strength combined with the power play potential gives him the chance to easily break the 40-point mark this season. The Flyers hope that their preseason move will continue to pay off as the regular season moves on.
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