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Sunday, January 16, 2011

WJC Scouting Reports: Canada

This is the last of the WJC scouting reports for 2011.

It was a fun tourney to cover, but the book is closed and the Russians have their first gold since 2003, when Alex Ovechkin was still 18 months from becoming the top overall selection to Washington.

It was a brutal loss for Canada in the championship game after they took a 3-0 lead, but Bruins fans can certainly commiserate given what happened in Boston back in May.

When Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Murphy were cut from Team Canada selection camp in December, it deprived scouts a chance to see two of the more elite skill players available in the 2011 NHL Draft, and made Sean Couturier the lone eligible player on Canada's silver medal-winning squad.

Sean Couturier, C 6-3, 195 Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)-- Large frame that will put on a lot more mass when reaching its physical peak (220-230). Lanky and long-limbed player needs to add both upper and lower body strength. High center of gravity makes him susceptible to being knocked off the puck and off-balance until he gains the requisite strength. Average skater; has a slow 1st gear and takes a while to get up to speed. Needs some more fluidity in his strides. Very good hands and stick; can shoot and pass to a high degree. High-end hockey sense, vision and offensive instincts. Threads the needle with pinpoint passes. Big, heavy shot that he can score with from just about anywhere. Smart, competitive. Youngest player on Canada was going to be hard-pressed to see a lot of ice time, but his role seemed to diminish as the WJC games went on, however. Failed to capitalize on a breakaway chance on Jack Campbell in semifinal win against USA.

Overview: Disappointing WJC obviously for Canada, but also for Couturier who didn't do much to establish himself as a clear-cut front-runner for the top overall selection in June. He's got nice size and skill, but isn't truly elite or dynamic in any aspect, though still a very nice prospect. His playing style in the WJC was comparable to Joe Thornton in that he glides around a bit and waits for his chances at times instead of being the bull in the china shop he's capable of. Couturier will go within the top-two picks in all likelihood, but the danger with this kid is that he has the look of a nice complementary player, but isn't going to be a franchise cornerstone type you build around. That may be a bit of bad news for the team that drafts him, especially if that team is a bottom-finisher depending on a bit more bang for the buck from a pick at the top-end of the 1st round.

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