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.

  • 24% body fat

    There is no way we trade up to get two centers. If the team was not happy with Gagner he would be gone by now. either one of these centers is going to push Gagner to be a better player. than we can have a one two punch. We are nt drafting landeskog. We are getting a center and a D.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      No problaimo Wax Man.

      Sometimes it’s humor, sometimes it makes sense, you never know what you’re going to get here.

      It always makes for an interesting visit here when we’re all wearing a can.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Nowhere have I read anything about Courturier that would suggest he has big league compete or a feisty edge to him. Does that mean he is a low-key non-competitive guy or what? Mike Richards is not blindingly fast, big or quick but he has what appears to be a big heart and leads quite convincingly.

    Is physical size over-emphasized measured against some of the subjective intangibles?

    I guess we’ll see. I wonder what steps are taken to assess future performance via psych testing? Do the NHL teams take that into account or do they just go on impressions left from interviewing the players?

  • Mitch

    @Brownlee

    If I read your articles correctly, I still feel the Oilers take RNH. When I look back at 03 and the handful of great players the Oilers passed up and even traded down for to select Pouliot, I still get pissed off. After watching all of the WJ’s I just feel Couturier is big and strong but not a big game player, I need high skill, the guy that wants the puck all night long when your going for the win. RNH is the best player available to give me these quailty’s that also fits the current roster of the oilers, RNH is a mix of Sakic and Datsyuk. Yes there is a good possibility that we could aquire one more high pick, if it was me I select Ryan Murphy a P.P. specalist, he should not be over looked. Yes RNH is a small guy, but would you pass up on Parise? Other roster players can be moved when the time is correct.

  • re: Couturier’s supposed “lack of compete:

    The scouts have seemed pretty unanimous in praising Couturier as an excellent two way and defensive player.

    I’m not really sure how a player could have a “lack of compete” and still be an excellent defensive player? Does he just wish the puck away from the opponent?

  • treblecharger

    Robin: Don’t have time to read all the comments, (just got home from work, bed, work again in 6 hrs.), but I’ve had a feeling the last few months that maybe the team favours this kid and is downplaying their interest. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tambo move down.
    Something like: 1st pick and a prospect to Florida for 3rd pick and Gudbranson?

  • treblecharger

    …this kid hasn’t played a minute in the NHL AND has had knee ligament damage recently… everyone has praised the crap outta him (dunno why) but why trade with FLA for #3 when there’s better choices to get other players other than young unproven slow-to-develop iffy-at-best unrecommended-by-Gregor-a-hundred-times dmen? The Oilers have time to get their ‘nextPronger’ type with ONE good trade, no?

    also…i shuddered (actually i puked a little in my mouth) when i read, “For his part, Gudbranson says he models his game after Calgary Flames (now MapleLeaf) defenceman Dion Phanuef…”

    yikes!… do we want a kid who admits modeling his game after …gulp!…Dion Phaneuf?

    nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

  • treblecharger

    Will the early playoff exits of the Flyers and the Capitals change the dnamics of the draft just a little more in our favor? I would think that Philly needs to rethink its goaltending. Again. Proven once again that if you don’t have goaltending you won’t go far in the SCP. The abscence of secondary scoring for the Capitals and the lack of blueline experience came back to haunt the Capitals. Would a Hemsky trade to the Capitals be out of the realm of possibility? The off season is going to be so interesting. The draft will be a major highlight of the off season with the Oilers picking first. Maybe.My pick is still RNH. Though I would like the Oilers to make a strong move to trade up to pick Huberdeaux or Strome.

  • derrickhands

    Robin you forgot to mention one very important part that Sean Couturier was recovering from mono which takes about a year to recover from it’s affects. It would be safe to say that he was not 100% healthy all year and he was still able to produce. Imagine what he would be like when he’s healthy.

  • derrickhands

    Hopkins could turn out to be the next Daigle . In a lot of ways reminds me of him in his draft year .Could prove to be a disasterous first overall pick . Will he turn out to be better than Gagner or Eberle , maybe but i wouldn’t bank on it . Will he turn out to be the next Sakic, Datsyuk or Gretsky ? Not even a 10 % chance from what i have seen of him . Way over assessed from what i see . We need a big centerman or D man more than taking on another high risk player . I can see us taking a shot at RNHopkins with a second pick possibility , but not our first .

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Anyone could be the next Daigle or Stefan or big bust, anyone in this draft could fit that, so you can say it all you want but it is always a chance and I would say RNH has the same shot at being like a Datsyuk as being a Daigle.

      Plus “Gretsky”????? Cmon man!!!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Brilliant article again Robin, this is the most riveting series since Star Wars.
    From the visual looks of Stu’s comments, I was concluding that maybe Stu was thinking about taking this guy #1, and why wouldnt he? Then you made a comment that stressed the negatives in Stu’s comments. I can’t argue with that, since you were sitting in the room, but by my eye these were the most positive comments on any players in your series to date. (save maybe RNH)Part of me still hopes for this Joe Thornton centre.
    A Big top line center? Who wants that?

  • striker777

    In his draft year (1997, I think). Joe Thornton was 6’3″ and 197 lb. Sean Couturier now is 6’4″ and 195 lb.

    Thornton had 122 point in his draft year. Couturier has 96 points, but I understand he had mono this season. Who knows how many more points he would have had, if he wasn’t sick. I like Couturier’s game: plays a solid 2-way hockey, wins faceoffs and wins personal battles.

    Couturier scored more goals than RNH and I believe he has a better +/-.

    I sure hope Tambo is smart enough to trade down and take Couturier. If he makes a trade with Florida and takes away Gudbranson – I’m voting Tambo for the Mayor! next election

  • Jaggedstream

    I just hope we pick a true # 1 center. How good could Iginla (and the Flames) have been if he actually played with a #1 center? Don’t want to be saying that in 15 years about Hall.