2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. 6 Sean Couturier

The last player to have been labeled as “the next best thing” by age 14 was Sidney Crosby. Now, don’t expect any Sidney Crosby’s to come out of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft – but when you’re 6-foot-2, 180 pounds as an eighth grader, scouts are going to notice. That’s precisely what happened with Quebec Major Junior League star Sean Couturier.

Granted, Couturier has since grown to 6-foot-4, 191 pounds in recent years. But his game has also grown while playing for the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Jumping right onto the scene in his first season (2008-09), Couturier never looked back, amassing a career total of 223 points in 184 QMJHL games (including 96 this season, the second-best on his team and fifth-best in the league). The 18-year-old center has had the spotlight on him for years now, but is still being compared to stars such as Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal and his brother, Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal. In 2009-10 Couturier became the first 17-year-old to lead the league in points since Sidney Crosby did so in 2004-05.

His development was exponentially nudged along with the help of Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher, who coached Couturier in his rookie season. “Guy was a great coach,” Couturier said in an interview with NHL.com. “In that first year, I didn’t know what to expect, but having Guy around made my (adaptation) that much better and he made me comfortable in Drummondville, so a lot of success comes from him. The thing is, I didn’t have a whole lot of ice time, but Guy still kept me positive and made me a better player. He just told me to get better every day and that’s what I did because the next year was a lot better.”

Couturier’s strength is, with no pun intended, his strength. Although he could still use 15 to 20 pounds of bulking up before he can become a bona fide NHL power forward, Couturier has proven that he can use his size to his advantage and power his way to the slot. That size, however, has no effect on his speed, as he is one of the best skaters in major junior. His hockey sense is off the charts, and his plus-55 rating attests to his improved play on the defensive side of the puck.

“Sean has excellent puckhandling and playmaking ability,” Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards told NHL.com. “He sees the ice and reads the play very well. The top prospects game was far from his best outing but he’s extremely smart and gets himself into good scoring position. He plays a solid two-way game and is very responsible defensively.”

Every mid-season NHL.com mock draft had Couturier going in the top-four of this year’s draft (with one columnist tagging him as the number one pick). Hundreds of other mock drafts across the Internet have Couturier being drafted just as high. And although we won’t know for sure until June 24, we can be almost assured that Couturier will be able to make the jump immediately to the NHL and prove his doubters (which are not many) that he is ready to play in the big leagues.

Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.

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