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
North American Skater
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.
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."
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.