Serenity Now

Sean Couturier has proven to be a poor front runner. The "reverse Secretariat" started at the front of the pack (with Adam Larsson) and appeared to be holding his own through the World Junior roster cuts. Since then, he’s been passed like a house on the side of the road.   
 

It cannot be easy for these teenagers at the top of the draft. Millions of dollars can be made or lost in a draft year: cover the bet like Taylor Hall and you win the toughest prize in amateur hockey (first overall in the NHL draft). Struggle and you can drop quicker than Angelo Esposito.

Sean Couturier is extremely unlikely to be the first overall selection at the 2011 entry draft. That in and of itself isn’t big news, Couturier was co-#1 on Bob McKenzie’s pre-season list (it is here) so being selected 2nd or 3rd wouldn’t send Angelo Esposito ripples throughout the scouting community (Esposito was ranked at or near the top of the draft by central scouting, and then ended up going 20th overall in his draft year). Even a 4th overall selection in the entry draft for Couturier wouldn’t be such a big deal.

However, as time passes there is some anecdotal evidence that suggests Couturier is sliding as the draft season wears on. This looks more like Cam Fowler’s fall from his predicted spot on the draft floor, which was a matter of teams liking another prospect just a little bit more. In Couturier’s case, the trickle may become a flood and some scouting services currently rank him at the edge of the top 10. Here’s the latest list from Redline Report:

  1. RW Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener (OHL)
  2. C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer (WHL)
  3. D Adam Larsson, Skelleftea (SEL)
  4. D Dougie Hamilton, Niagra (OHL)
  5. L Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John (QMJHL)
  6. D Ryan Murphy, Kitchener (OHL)
  7. C Ryan Strome, Niagra (OHL)
  8. C Sean Couturier, Drummondville (QMJHL)
  9. C Alex Khokhlachev, Windsor (OHL)
  10. L Brandon Saad, Saginaw (OHL)

In our conversation on Nation Radio this past Saturday, ON’s Jonathan Willis said "Redline is a scouting organization that likes to make a big splash, they like to generate controversy with their lists. I can’t help but think that a little bit of that is playing into placing Couturier at #8."

EJ McGuire, the director of Central Scouting, would seem to agree. I asked him for any names he felt could break into the season long top 4 (Larsson, Couturier, Landeskog and RNH) and he felt there was no one, not even Hamilton and Strome whose arrows have been going straight up since the new year. When asked directly about Couturier being available outside the top 5, McGuire said "he is long legged and smooth and very deliberate, yet sees the ice well. If you want a firewagon hockey you might pass over this player."

One team that appears to be considering passing over Couturier is the Edmonton Oilers. At a special event for season ticket holders on the weekend, Steve Tambellini mentioned the names in consideration for first overall. Adam Larsson, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Strome and Dougie Hamilton were all mentioned, but the big Drummondville center was omitted from ST’s list. I think we can all understand that the Oilers aren’t about to reveal their lists, but it is also reasonable to assume that they are in fact looking at those 5 men at number one.

Which leads me to believe it’s Adam Larsson or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

RISKY BUSINESS

Couturier was at or near the top of the draft for the first few months of this season. What happened? Too many viewings? Did he fade? 

Couturier had an outstanding offensive season. He went 36-60-96 in 58 games played. Where is the case against him? Here it is:

  • His splits were 25gp, 16-36-52 before January 1st (a 2.08ppg total) and 33gp, 20-24-44 in 2011’s regular season games (1.33).
  • Kirk Luedeke’s take on the fall is here. He says: He’s got a nice 6-4, 195-pound frame and has the hands and instincts to be a scorer at the next level. What is hurting him most are his heavy feet, but you can expect that he will spend a lot of time with power skating instructors between now and whenever he’s knocking on the NHL door to remedy that shortcoming.

 And perhaps most damaging his year-to-year progress is lagging compared to Nugent-Hopkins and Strome:

Sean Couturier

  • Age 15 in Q: 58gp, 9-22-31 (,534ppg)
  • Age 16 in Q: 68gp, 41-55-96 (1.412ppg)
  • Age 17 in Q: 58gp, 36-60-96 (1.655ppg)

Couturier didn’t stall season over season, but the improvement (as noted above by the splits) stopped after the World Juniors. He may be what he is, which is still an exceptional prospect. But more and more he is looking like Doug Wickenheiser in a world of Denis Savard’s, with no GM willing to select the big man #1 this time.

Ryan Strome

  • Age 16 in O: 61gp, 8-19-27 (.443ppg)
  • Age 17 in O: 65gp, 33-73-106 (1.631ppg)

Although his point-per-game total is similar to Couturier, it’s a case of how he got there. Strome’s development has been nothing less than astonishing, to the point where Woodlief is now calling him the best stickhandler in the draft. Although Strome has not been considered as a serious option by most Oiler fans (including me) from this point forward Strome should be in the conversation. He could go #1, and the Oilers have listed him as a player under consideration. Strome is 6.01, 183 and right-handed which may also help when projecting him onto the Oilers in the future.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

  • Age 15 in W: 5gp, 2-4-6 (1.2ppg)
  • Age 16 in W: 67gp, 24-41-65 (.9701ppg)
  • Age 17 in W: 69gp, 31-75-106 (1.536ppg)

A strong finish puts RNH in the conversation. He has clearly improved season-over-season and his season caught fire at about the same time as Couturier began to fade. He has exceptional skill and appears to be the "Doan" selection for Oilers nation at this draft.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The Edmonton Oilers are extremely likely to have the first overall selection at the entry draft. Sean Couturier doesn’t appear to be under consideration, although a strong playoff could change all that in a hurry. Adam Larsson and RNH are still standing, as is Gabriel Landeskog. And in an "oh by the way" kicker to the Couturier news we have two new kids to consider in Strome and Dougie Hamilton.

In this way the Oilers list appears to be marching in lock step with Redline report.

  • oilersrule05

    I was hoping to get a dman and a centre in the draft. I don’t think that Couturier would fall to us at the Kings pick but we could always try and move up to grab him. Would a first round of Larsson and Couturier be satisfactory to Oilernation? What if we ended up with RNH and Couturier? We could solidify our centre position for the next decade. We have so many options going into the draft so I am not really worried who we get in the draft. I know that Stu will do a great job.

    I was wondering where Stu came from? Was he stolen from another team? Did he get promoted from within? Or did we just get lucky?

  • oilersrule05

    Getting another top 10 pick gives us even more options. I still can’t believe that Fowler fell as far as he did. I hope we get someone like that this year to. Although you can say that Eberle fell to us 3 years ago.

  • oilersrule05

    There is no way Tamby is trading away Hemsky plus Kings pick to Columbus for their 1st rounder this year. You’re saying that Hemmer is worth less than a first rounder. I’d do Cogs, Kings pick, and the 31st to Columbus for their first rounder this year. If we’re trading Hemmer it should be for a more ready prospect that can come in and contribute right away.

    I probably should’ve just had one post instead of the three. Then again I really don’t like ready long posts so it makes it easier to read. LOL

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      No it’s saying Hemmer is worth less then a top 10 pick.

      given his injury history and the fact that he only has one year left on his deal that’s pretty resonable.

  • Peterborough

    We are a lottery team next year we get the centre then. Larsson and the next two BPA. Thats three for sure and then let MBS do his magic with the two thirds and forths and on done to fill out depth and we should be looking a team with easily the best propect pool in the league. Another bottom 5 finish next year lands us the #1 C and the rest of the deptht that will go from playoff contention to champion.

  • oilersrule05

    Peterborough we’re already considered as having the best pool of prospects according to some people. Also adding a couple more prospects including another lottery pick this year and we’ll only strengthen our spot. At some point we need to move forward and not rely on the lottery. I’d like to think that after this draft we should start trying to get better.

    I’d hope that in the offseason Tamby adds some depth role players that we need. Our top 6 should be set and what we need to do is fix our bottom 6 and the defense. There is no reason why we can’t add players for the bottome 6. I’d tend to believe that if we improve our bottom 6 including if possible adding two centres that can win faceoffs and play better in our end.

    We’re in a position where we shouldn’t need to try and land a top offensive player via free agency. Adding depth bottom 6 players and maybe a physical shutdown dman shouldn’t be hard.

    Faceoffs, dzone, PP, PK, and physicality were our problems. Getting better on the dot could drastically improve every area that we’re lacking in. Faceoffs is the most glaring weakness that we have.

    • Peterborough

      I think a lot of those problems internally 1-2 of Vande Velde Hartikainen or O’Marra come up. I would love to see them sign some 2 year contracts to guys like Rupp or Eager. Would totally love a Laich or Upshall. A vet D is a must but with Larsson and the plethora of young D we will have going forward will be the key of winning and sustained success. Remember Ottawa when they had Chara and what happened to them after?

      This is supposed to be a perenial winner we need assests and to manage them properly. By all accounts we are doing the latter. One more year of suck. Its going to happen. Deal with it.

      But then it will be over for a long long time. mmmm kool aid tastes sooo good this time of year!

      • Lowetide

        Those are interesting names. A C depth chart of Gagner (or RNH), Laich, Horcoff and Cogliano has some nice range of skills and size.

        Would Laich sign with the Oilers? I don’t think it is likely.

      • Lowetide

        Ben Eager, Cam Janssen, and Shane O’Brien are three guys that Tamb should go after to occupy the spots that the Oilers should have after letting go of Stortini and I can’t see JFJ and MacIntyre being back. All three can give you NHL minutes and the Oilers should press hard after these three because it will add that necessary toughness and they can all play at least 10mins per game. I agree with Lowetide though Upshall and Laich seem a bit of a stretch.

  • Rogue

    I would like to see the Oil draft 2 centers with the first picks and a dman with 31. To me centre is where we are the weakest. And I know our D is weak, but if we have offense to spare, a Dman can be had in a trade. They also take longer to develop.

    • D-Man

      Agree 100%. Take 2 centres if you can and draft a D-man at pick 31. Sounds like Musil might be available around that time. He was a consensus top 10 pick at the beginning of the year.

      RNH and McNeil would be perfect. Or maybe RNH and that Swedish centre, Zibenjad (sp?)

      The Oilers aren’t gonna be good next season and next year is the year of the D-men. You will get a very good D-man at next years draft.

  • Rogue

    My few thoughts;

    When it comes to Couturier I can’t help but wonder what effect mono had on him both in terms of this season and if it retarded his development in any permanent way. I am not sure how a team can quantify that though.

    When ever I see an E.J. McGuire ranking or analysis I think back to last draft and him having the 1-2 as Seguin – Hall.

    The Oilers went into this season heavy on the wings and nothing of note down the center or on defence. We have sat through a miserable winter of even more miserable hockey for the honour of picking #1. If the pinnacle moment of this forgetable year ends up being the Oilers passing over what they need for another winger they don’t need, I am going to puke…hopefully it will be at an Oilers breakfast and in the vacinity of Tambellini’s shoes.

  • Chris.

    I’m a Couturier guy. I think he will be a responsible, big minute horse; who’ll post good numbers for a lot of years in the NHL… Kinda a French Canadian version of Matts Sundin.

    • D-Man

      I haven’t seen enough of Larrson, RNH or Landeskog to comment – but with Couturier – aren’t you concerned about his foot speed?

      I’m just wondering if he’ll be able to skate at a NHL elite level? There aren’t too many centres – asides from Joe Thorton, that can thrive in the NHL without above average speed.

  • Mantastic

    i think CBJ has a better dance partner with Florida then us. pretty sure they could just give up their first rounder for weiss, since tallon covets draft picks so much. CBJ drafting a center now which won’t develop until nash is at the end of his prime seems useless, so trading it for a bonified 1C seems like the best option for CBJ.

    the best fit for Hemmer would be IMO would be washington, hemmer + ovy + backstorm would just be flithy and i could see something in the works there. johansson has upped his value a lot since backstorm got injuried.

  • Rogue

    My only issue with trading Gags at this time is our depth at centre. That would leave Horc(heaven forbid) as our 1st line centre and whoever we draft at number 2…IF they are NHL ready. No way on this planet will I watch Cogs or Brittle as our number 2 centres. I will move to Thailand.!!

    It might be prudent to wait til the next deadline to move Gags. Has there ever been any talk of Omark as a centre. I know he is small, but it would open up a lot of ice for him,tho I do shudder thinking of his D zone coverage.

    • D-Man

      You’re right when you say we’d be drafting a number 2 center or more like a 1B with Horcoff as our 1A. Considering how Cogs has emerged as a decent forechecker – I don’t mind him as our #3 center. Yes – he’d have to win more draws but he right now is more suited for the role than Gags is…

      I wouldn’t mind see O’Marra here next year as our number 4 center… He seems to finally ‘get’ his role and would be as good as Frasor is..

      I think Omark is a more effective winger in a 2nd/3rd line role. I don’t know if he could win a draw, but as a center he’s probably not fighting along the boards as much (where he’s the most effective).

  • longbottom/P.Biglow

    I started out the year as a Couturier guy and am still a Couturier guy. Am wondering though is it possable that he becomes this years Eberle? Is it possable he could drop far enough for the Oil to get him with LA’s #1 pick?
    Wouldn’t that be a kicker getting both Larsson and Couturier?