There are a plethora of scouting reports out there for this summer’s draft, and there isn’t always much agreement between them. One thing they all agree on, however, is that Sean Couturier’s spot on the list keeps getting lower and lower.
There are concerns about Couturier’s skating. There are concerns that he doesn’t play a physical enough game. He didn’t score enough at the top prospects game or at the world juniors.
I’d be lying if I said those things didn’t concern me. I haven’t watched any QMJHL games this season, so I can’t comment on Couturier beyond what I saw at the World Juniors, where I thought he did what was expected of him as a depth center on the Canadian depth chart. I don’t subscribe to the notion that his performance in that tournament should be held against him; after all, he’s far from the first top prospect to have a lousy World Juniors in his draft year. Jonathan Toews had two lousy assists in his draft year, but he turned out okay. I wonder if Toews’ WJC performance had anything to do with Pittsburgh snagging Jordan Staal ahead of him? So that doesn’t bother me – the tournament is short, and on a team as deep as Canada it can be difficult to do enough to climb the depth chart in six games.
The math loves Couturier. Scouts talk about a lack of progression, but the player has the same number of points this season despite missing 10 games and battling through mono. He was a plus-55 for Drummondville, which is impressive, but it’s more impressive than we realize that outside of regular linemate Ondrej Palat, no other forward was better than plus-18. People talk about Nugent-Hopkins’ two-way game; but somehow it never gets mentioned that he’s not a regular penalty-killer. Couturier is, and he has seven points shorthanded this season. His even-strength numbers are among the best in the draft.
Add to that the fact that Couturier’s 6’4” and wins faceoffs, and it’s hard not to like him.
Would I take Couturier first overall? No. The scouting reports have been too negative, and that deserves some weight here. McKenzie’s ranking strikes me as the most probable; I expect Couturier to go somewhere around fifth overall.
He’s a high-end prospect, a certain top-10 pick, and a player that I’d look long and hard at in Steve Tambellini’s shoes if the Oilers decided to trade down. The latter play is one I’d consider if the return were strong enough.