FTHM V: SEAN COUTURIER

Is Sean Couturier the big, strong and skilled first-line centre fans of the Edmonton Oilers have been clamouring for — and possibly a franchise player GM Steve Tambellini can build around?

Or is the towering Drummondville pivot simply head-and-shoulders bigger than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels in terms of stature, but not necessarily talent in the estimation of many amateur scouts who’ve been tracking his progress in the QMJHL?

We won’t have the answer for years to come, but the Oilers have to make that call before they make the No. 1 pick at the NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota June 24. Is Couturier, who has slid in CSS rankings, their man at No. 1, or will it be Nugent-Hopkins or big Swede Adam Larsson?

I spoke with Oilers chief scout Stu MacGregor about Couturier and have also added some facts and opinions from CSS, just as I did for Jonathan Huberdeau and Gabriel Landeskog and will do for Nugent-Hopkins and Larsson it items still to come.

THE SKINNY FROM CSS

Sean Couturier

North American Skater

Drummondville, QMJHL

Final Rank: 6 Midterm Rank: 2

Position: Center Shoots: Left

Height: 6′ 4" Weight: 197

Born: December 7, 1992 Hometown: Bathurst, NB

Born in: Phoenix, AZ, USA

NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Bordeleau

“At his size, he’ll be hard to pass up in the draft. He possesses a very good work ethic and he’s out there for every important faceoff. He’s very responsible in the defensive aspect of the game — a rare quality for such a young player in junior hockey."

— After finishing in a tie for fourth in league scoring with 96 points (36-60-96) this season, Couturier was named the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player, the Top 2011 Draft Prospect and selected a First-Team All-Star. He also finished second in the league with a plus-55 rating.

— He was the youngest and only draft-eligible player on Team Canada at the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships, winning a silver medal. He also won a gold medal with Canada’s Under-18 team at the 2009 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament.

MACGREGOR’S TAKE

Scouting Report: "He’s got great vision, hockey sense and puck control. He’s real big and strong and he’ll get more powerful as he develops physically."

Projection: "I think he could be a first-line centre."

Best Case Scenario: "A good first-line centre."

Concerns: "He has to get quicker, speed-wise."

MY TAKE

Either MacGregor is lukewarm about Couturier or under-selling the Oilers interest in him (which they don’t have to do when they sit with the No. 1 pick). "Could be a first-line centre?" A "good" first-line centre as the top end? Not the praise I was expecting to hear.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Mantastic

    @ Wes Mantooth

    When the SeaDogs win the memorial cup are you still going to call the league inferior? Like it or not the QMJHL for the size of the league produces a heck of a lot of top tier talents when compared to other leagues.

    • NastyNate

      4 team froms the Q have won the mem cup since 1990. Every league produces quality players that is a given, but as for highly touted top end talent the Q produces less than the WHL and OHL. Outside of Crosby and Lecav there have been limited numbers of high end draft picks (top 10s) who turn out to be Elite players.

    • Like who? and try not to say Crosby.

      There league is watered down, by that I mean there is only a half dozen or so teams that are stacked. the rest is just filled with average players.

      Now, I dont follow it as much as I do the OHL or the dub but IMHO it’s not even close.

      • Why wouldn’t you say Crosby?

        Out of the top 30 scoring forwards in the NHL this year 2 were from the WHL (Getlzaf & Iginla), 7 were from the QMJHL (Richards, Lecavalier, Giroux, Briere, Crosby, Tanguay & Ribeiro) and 9 were from the OHL (Carter, Duchesne, Tavares, Thornton, Kane, Staal, Stamkos, Perry & Ryan)

        There are plenty of good players from the Q and it’s about on par with the base of players they have to draw from.

        • Crosby’s the exception to the rule here. He’s in a class all by himself and really can’t be compared to players in the league right now, maybe a couple but that’s it.
          Having said the IMO the Q is with the exception of a few teams is generally watered down, less of talent pool then the OHL and the Dub is what I mean, you can take the top end talent and show me the comparisons but after that it gets pretty weak. The players you mentioned with the exception of crosby whom would take on your list?

  • Mantastic

    @Mantastic

    In my original post I stated that if the Oilers see them both as 1st line centers(comparable upsides) they’ll take the one who is bigger. I think its safe to say no one ever thought Brassard would have the same upside as Crosby.

    • Mantastic

      you said that if the oilers both seem them #1 centers and didn’t mention anything about equal upside.

      regardless no one is ever equal or is treated equal. something is always going to outweigh something else. these kids are completely different in the way that they play and even though they are both projected at #1 C’s in the league it doesn’t mean they are equal (reference my crosby comparasion)

  • The longer this goes on the more I too wish Tamby would do what he has to do to get both SC and RNH. I can’t bear the thought of passing on either of them.

    The question is, who do we trade with and what do we have to give up to make it happen?

    *sigh* This is going to be a looong summer.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I just don’t like the players in the QMJHL. I just think it’s an inferior league to the rest of the MJ programs.

    There has to be another reason other then foot speed as to why SC fell so far. Intensity? Compete level? Who knows, but do you risk a 1st overall selection on a player because he’s 6’4 and good along the boards? We had a guy like that, big George! Or worse maybe a Bonsignore type.

    I think the Oilers like what they see in RNH, from what I have read he’s equal to everything SC but has those other intangibles the Oilers are looking for.

  • YFC Prez

    Who do you pass up on. The Nuge or Couturier. I personally want either of these 2 players come draft day and am very glad that the oil have a very capable man making the decision. I imagine both Hopkins and Couturier will be 1st line C in their careers but have no idea who will be better, just please draft a center with the 1st pick.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    In 1981-82 another 6’4″ kid who needed work on his skating as well put up 30 goals and 66 assists during his season in the QMJHL season.

    Sean Couturier pots 36 goals and 60 assists during his 2010-11 campaign in the QMJHL. Once the kid gets comfortable he may even handle his own battles on the ice like Hall has started to. The 81-82 kid was named Mario Lemieux. Maybe we should focus on what Sean can do instead of some things he can work on, maybe Serdachny could offer some help. Reading this leads me to rethink the RNH at No.1, perhaps we’re better off with Couturier and Strome or Couturier and Huberdeau.

    Like i said last year for Seguin, SELL THE FARM!…and get a shot at another one of these kids. Any duo of RNH/Couturier/Strome/Huberdeau would end the issues the Oilers have down the middle for many years.

    Couturier….to Gagner, cutting in on the right side….HE SHOOTS, HE SCORES!

    Stuarts controlled enthusiasm for Sean tells me the Oilers are working hard to do this very thing.

    • Wax Man Riley

      In ’78-’79 a kid that was too small and too skinny was putting up decent points in a minor pro/pro league, but going into the big leagues he would be pushed around way too much to be effective.

      That ’79-’80 kid was named Gretzky. Lets not start comparing anyone to the best players ever to play the game unless his name is Crosby.

      There was a player putting up very good numbers,in ’95-’96, like 101 pts in a very good WHL league. 27 goals, 74 assists. He also put up 203 PIM! He was tough, AND could put up points.

      Any guesses to who that was?

      So lets temper the comparisons, because you never know. Tough to take a pick due to size or not take one due to lack of.

      …And all of that being said, a large, skilled center would look great in an Oilers Jersey dishing passes or blazing trails to the net.

      But, so would an incredibly speedy, shifty, smart center that battles hard every shift. I just don’t see the Oilers getting both at the top of the draft.

      • NastyNate

        I think you may be referring to the one and only Steve Kelly whose NHL career was a major let down based uptown his junion boxcars. Poor guy, the oil would love someone with those junior numbers right now. I think it just goes to show that when players are drafted they have alot of growing to do before they become bonified NHL players and every year will have its busts and surprises.

  • Mantastic

    @Mantastic

    Brassard would be classified as a 2nd line center by most people even though he may have been playing top line minutes in Columbus(which if I’m not mistaken he wasn’t as that was Umberger’s job), Crosby is widely considered as the best or second best player in the world. How about when you use comparables you use guys that are somewhat close in terms of skill. RNH at his top end is a Statsny like player, Couturier at his top end is a Lecavalier type player. Which player do you pick first overall? Which player fits our rebuild the best considering our core of MPS, Gagner, Hall, Whitney, Hemsky, Eberle?

    • Mantastic

      he was still projected as a top line center. i’m not comparing them to any of those players but just mentioning the fact that there are a lot of projected top line centers and you can’t just choose one based on the fact one is larger then another.

  • Mantastic

    Im so confused, Im not even sure I really know who I want the Oilers to take. Im betting it will be a bit of a surprise, and it will be SC.

    Sn

    I wonder if MacT could land in Washington? Assuming they let Boudreau go.

  • Mantastic

    @ Sox and Oil

    I believe the word is competing.
    Toughness is a word that’s used interchangeable. In my opinion, I believe watching both players is that completive level is not the same.

    Having said that I only watched SC during the WJC which by no means is enough, but I got to watch RNH a lot, and was hands down much more competitive.

  • Sox and Oil

    I’d be very happy if ST called Sean’s name 1st overall. If the big thing holding him back is speed that can be worked on. Remember speed was lacking from Eberle’s game as well. If the other area is a lack of ‘toughness’ who’s really going to try and convince me that RNH is a ‘tougher’ option.

    • Mantastic

      If ST calls him 1st overall, I think it’s a missed opportunity to trade down. Even if it’s a negligible trade, I think the media signs point to Couturier going other than #1, and the Oilers should trade down to at least 3rd if he’s tops on their radar.

      Worst case scenario, he goes 1str, they take either of RNH or Larsson and pretend that was the plan. Best case, they get Couturier and a pick/player and claim that was the plan. Management needs to start taking SMB’s advice and working tactic’s into the selection on an ambiguous draft with any of 3 players being the “best” available.

      I say “best case” presuming SMB thinks Couturier is the fit; and that’s with no knowledge or talent on my part judging prospects.

  • I tried it at home

    Hmm, a big physical centre who takes important faceoffs. Why would the Oilers want one of those when theres a smallish skilled centre available as well, you cant have enough of those now, can you. *Keep in mind I was pushing for Seguin last year

    • yes, well put ! really makes you wonder what we are building here when you watch the current edition of the Stanley cup playoffs. Well at least I’m watching. Not sure if ST or KL watches much hockey this time of year. The size or lack of it on this OIL team needs to be addressed. Making the playoffs, yes, is an accomplishment but winning a series and going deep requires bigger grittier bodies. Winning faceoffs and having a go to guy there would be good too. My fear is if we go with RNH, a smaller frame will disappear in the big mans league. Sam Gagne had similar points in his draft year and look at how he has developed. He is not a first line centre- we are still in need for that elusive centre. I trust Stu will make the right choice. The question is who will make the final call ? That’s what scares me…….

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Just because he doesn’t run players through the baords doesn’t mean he isn’t physical.

        He constantly engages in puck battles and uses his size and strength to win them… very similar to how Joe Thorton plays.

        • That’s a good point. Effective physicality doesn’t have to involve being a devastating hitter or a punisher along the boards.

          It can mean, and does mean in the case of somebody like Thornton, using your size to your advantage, as in protecting the puck and gaining leverage.

          • And you said so in a derogatory way.

            There are very few high quality offensive players who play the bang and crash game. That doesn’t mean they aren’t physical though.

            Omark may constantly engage and win puck battles but he goes about it in a different way. He uses speed and shifty movements and a low centre of gravity to protect the puck. Couturier works along the boards and uses his size to leverage opposing players away from the puck and uses his size to create space and protect it.

            The notion that because he’s 6’4 that he should be running through everyone doesn’t make sense… there’s virtually no high quality offensive players who do that (the rare exception being Ovechkin).

          • Mantastic

            how the hell did i say it in a derogatory way? could you tell by the sound of my voice? or the way i stroked the keys while i was typing? or even in the contexted of the statment? did i, in anyway, put down penner while i was at it?

            you perceived me saying it in a derogatory way, it could easily be read both ways.

            you can look at getz and perry for a good example and that they are highly offensive and physical, not running people though the boards but clearly play in a physical way, you can’t say the same with thorton

      • Mantastic

        i would agree with this only based on watching at WJ’s. Jayden Schwartz played bigger than SC to me, disconcerting at the least.

        Very small sample size indeed.

        Wasn’t there already a thread on RNH?

      • Sox and Oil

        maybe physical is the wrong term but couturier is not just willing to go to the tough areas like the other top forwards in this draft but he is more importantly able to do so at 6’4 197. I watched the WJ and he was very exceptional at keeping the play alive and was great at the spadework along the boards. Reminds me more of Jordan Staal than Eric because he’s not quite as offensively gifted but the Oilers already have offensively gifted forwards. A strong two way center would help this team a lot as Horcoff is now a diminishing asset due to age and injuries.

  • Mantastic

    Robin in all fairness to Stu, I don’t know how much more praise any of the other top prospects in this draft are going to get. I mean there’s no “Elite” level talent in this draft, and his only negative for Couturier was speed. Which can easily be improved. With that being said I think if the oiler scouts see Couturier as a 1st line center, and they see RNH as a 1st line center they’ll take Couturier just because he fits the team more then RNH if all other things are equal.

    • Mantastic

      derrick bassard is a #1 center in CBJ, sidney crosby is a #1 center for the penguins do you see a difference in #1 centers?

      you can’t just pick the “bigger” guy based on projected slot. skill is a larger factor for drafting a player.

  • I tried it at home

    These are great articles. All of Stu’s comments so far, in my opinion, seem to be pointing towards RNH as the guy (or Larsson, I suppose, since that article has yet to be posted). But, I’ll wait for the RNH article to see what Stu has to say about him.

  • Mantastic

    i would rather have couturier than huberdeau but too bad SC couldn’t make it farther into the CHL playoff picture… and it really seems that they aren’t leaning towards picking SC as #1 overall