When the Philadelphia Flyers drafted Center Sean Couturier in 2011, they thought they were receiving a player who could develop into a solid offensive gem. Couturier entered the NHL at the ripe age of 18. In his first season with the fly guys he was primarily used as a solid shutdown forward, that could be relied upon in any situation the coaching staff asked of him. This young stud managed to shut-down the likes of the great Evgeni Malkin in a 2011-12 playoff showdown with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
One area of Couturier’s game that we have not really seen is his offensive upside. He is gifted with a ton of untapped skill. Couturier would not tally 192 points in two seasons as a junior, if he wasn’t gifted offensively. He played well towards the end of the season last year by tallying 14 points in the last 20 games of the season. Couturier was then paired with Dale Weise, and Brayden Schenn. However, this season Couturier has been lighting it up offensively tallying 6 points (3G,3A), in 5 games played. Could being paired on the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek be a catalyst behind his offensive success?
Couturier was a dominant force in the QMJHL amassing a total of 283 points in 184 games played. Moreover, it was to no one’s surprise Couturier made the Flyers out of training camp in 2011. He had the goods and the will to turn this organization into a building block of success for the future. Couturier produced a heck of a rookie season. He quickly emerged as an elite shutdown centerman. The young centerman would play top line after top line each night. For the season, he produced 13 goals, 14 assists, and was an impressive plus 18.
At age 25, Couturier plays in all types of situations. He is a reliable penalty killer, and he quarterbacks the 2nd power play unit. Coming into this season he registered 70 goals, and 121 assists for a total of 191 points in 418 games played. If his offensive numbers improved a slight bit he would be in the running for a Selke Trophy (Given to the best defensive forward), each year.
In his third season as Head coach of the Flyers, Dave Hakstol made a ballsy move in forming a new top line of Giroux (LW), Couturier (C), and Voracek (RW). This sent shock waves throughout the City of Philadelphia for good reason. Moving a natural centerman in Giroux to the wing, and a third line centerman in Couturier to the top line. One would think this line was doomed to fail.
With Couturier mostly known as a shutdown center, he has stayed positive in his young career knowing his offensive game would eventually come to fruition. Well, the keys have finally been unlocked to his offensive success, as Couturier has registered 3 goals, 3 assists, and aN impressive plus 8 on this young season. Moreover, this new look top line has been dominant in all five games played this season. For the season, they have registered 22 points (6g,16a) and are an impressive plus 10 on the season thus far. After his fourth career two goal game against the Washington Capitals on Saturday night, Couturier stated:
“Yeah, since the start of the year, we have been getting a lot of chances every night. We have been scoring a little bit. Tonight we shot the puck a little more, it’s nice to get those goals.”
Looking for a rebound year with Giroux’s numbers slowly dipping each season since 2011-12. It’s great to have a breath of fresh air in a new look line. Maybe not being the man in the middle has helped ease his mind this season. Whatever the reason maybe, Giroux has 3 goals, 4 assists, and finally is a plus 1 on this young season.
After Voracek’s career year with 81 points in the 2014-15 season, his numbers have since dipped. For instance, Voracek only produced 11 goals, and 44 assists for a total of 55 points in the 2015-16 season. Yes, it’s ok to have a bad year. However, Voracek followed that up with 20 goals, and 41 assists for a total of 61 points in 2016-17. Looking for redemption this season Voracek has been nothing short of a phenomenal passer this young season. He has 0 goals, 9 assists, and a plus 1 on the year. This new found line has been working according to him, and the orange and black are in great shape from training camp.
“So far it does, there’s gonna be some bumps over part of the year, but right now we enjoy playing together. We’re scoring, skating well which is important and were usually going to get the most minutes on the team so we have to make sure on the plus numbers, today was one of those nights.”
Voracek added, “Yeah I think that training camp was hard, but it was a good push, obviously it’s a long season, there’s gonna be times when we hit the wall, but we cannot lose 14 or 15 games like last year, it can last two, three games but then we have to get back at it. I think were skating well because we’re in good shape.”
The ceiling is very high for this tandem, and they have been nothing short of phenomenal in the early going. For this young Flyers team, the engine is the top line. If the top line is producing, then it will be a great season. With that being said, they have accounted for almost half the offense while registering an impressive 22 points out of the 57 points total for the team. Hakstol deserves a ton of credit on this one for finally believing in “Coots.”
Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris Szagola