Ever since debuting in the NHL, Sean Couturier was pegged as an elite scorer. 96 points in consecutive seasons with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL, and 223 points in 184 games in the same league, and drafted 8th overall by the Flyers, Couturier was destined to be a top guy in whatever system he landed in.
This year has been the year that he needed, the year that execs and fans alike envisioned when he was drafted. 45 points in 43 games and a common name discussed when talking about the Selke award, Couturier is having the year that most people were hoping for when Hakstol put him on the top line with Giroux and Voracek. Even with Konecny taking Voracek’s spot on the top line, Couturier has been thriving just as much, if not more.
Coots has had two goals each in the last three games, and ten in his last ten. Fourteen points in his last ten games as well has catapulted Couturier to the league’s top 20 in scoring, joining Giroux and Voracek, who sit among the top ten in the league. Couturier is on pace to nearly triple his previous season high in points, and it is largely in part due to the fact that Hakstol bumped him up to the top line.
Consider the following: Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby were linemates in Pittsburgh for a few seasons. Kunitz, by far, was not nearly as good as Crosby. However, when on a line with a perennial talent such as Crosby, Kunitz looked ten times more talented than he actually is. This is no slight on Chris Kunitz, but Crosby is the kind of player that makes him linemates better. Kunitz benefited from that trait.
Claude Giroux has that same effect on players he shares a line with. Couturier has always possessed the offensive skills he has put on display this year. However, it took someone like Claude Giroux to unlock those skills and put them on full display for the rest of the league to see. Add in the fact that Jake Voracek is churning out assists faster than Budweiser churns out cases of beer, and you’ve got one of the most lethal line combinations in the league.
If it weren’t for the fact that the Flyer’s lack of depth led to Hakstol splitting up the dynamic ginger trio, Couturier might still be better than he already is this season. However, he hasn’t slowed one bit! As stated before, he has six goals in his last three games, two apiece, with Konecny being his winger as opposed to Voracek. It goes to show that at this point in the season, you can put just about anyone opposite of Couturier and Giroux, and Couturier will still produce at a high level.
His confidence is sky high, and rightfully so. When you are averaging slightly over a point a game after averaging less than a half a point a game in seasons prior, he has every right in the world to think that highly of himself, and let’s be honest, it’s about time.
Fans have been waiting and waiting for Couturier to round the corner and prove that his offensive skills match, or trump, his defensive skills. This is the season that team brass and fans have been expecting for a few years now, and patience has paid off. Fans have been rewarded for their patience, and Couturier is putting on a show for us all.
All it took was a simple move to 1C by Hakstol to show the rest of the world what Sean Couturier is capable of, and it has paid off in spades. Coots is playing at an elite level, and the recent all-star snub, as some would call it, is only further motivation for Couturier to go out there night in and night out, and strengthen his case as a Selke favorite, and an elite, playmaking center that belongs on the top line for years to come.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports