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Monday, October 4, 2010

Weekend QMJHL roundup: Couturier paces Drummondville to 1st place

Last year, Sean Couturier led the QMJHL in scoring, but in the early going this season, he's doing something far more important: the candidate for the No. 1 overall selection has pumped in seven goals and 12 points to lead his Drummondville Voltigeurs club to a tie for 1st place in the QMJHL standings with the Quebec Remparts.

The son of NHL journeyman Sylvain Couturier became the first 17-year-old to lead the 'Q' in scoring since Sidney Crosby did it in 2005 with the Rimouski Oceanic. Like Crosby, Couturier appears to be on the path to eclipse his father's standing in hockey (Sidney's father, Troy was a goalie in the Quebec league and late draft pick of Montreal ion 1984, the same year they took some guy of out of Granby named Patrick Roy)

The Hockey News had a nice feature on Couturier by Neil Hodge in their September 13 issue (the one with Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf on the cover), with the assertion that Couturier is the best French-Canadian prospect to come out of Quebec since Vincent Lecavalier, which is lofty praise for the 6-4, 191-pounder who was born in Phoenix of all places while his dad was a minor leaguer in the L.A. Kings' system with the Roadrunners.

Although a dual-citizen, Couturier is a Canadian through-and-through, but has lived all over in places including Germany and was also a member of the storied Notre Dame Hounds midget AAA program in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, where his teammates included 2010 first-rounder Brandon Gormley.

Moncton Wildcats head coach Danny Flynn went out to Notre Dame to scout both Gormley and Couturier when his team possessed the top selection in the QMJHL Midget Draft. Although Flynn opted for the defenseman, he told me last June that there was little doubt in his mind that Couturier was a player the moment he saw him.

"He's so big and skilled," Flynn said as we segued away from Gormley for a few minutes to discuss Couturier. "Sean was a player who jumped out immediately as a player who could control the game with his size, vision and hockey sense. He had the ability to make his presence known every time he was out there."

Couturier played for Drummondville in '08-09, a member of that team's championship season although he played a relatively minor role with just nine goals and 31 points in 58 games. Even then, you could see that he was on the verge of being something special. One of his teammates that year was current Bruins prospect and undrafted free agent, Yannick Riendeau. I spoke to Rienedau about Couturier briefly in Boston last month during the rookie portion of training camp.

"He's a great player," Riendeau said of Couturier. "He was very young, but he worked hard and you could see that he was getting better all the time."

His style compares favorably to other NHL big men like Joe Thornton and Jordan Staal.

Whether Couturier can do enough to be the top selection come June remains to be seen. His speed/mobility is one aspect of his game that scouts feel is an issue. Here's what Red Line Report had to say about him in their September issue, which headlined Couturier over 15 other QMJHL prospects: "Apart from his skating, which still needs a little improvement, the rest of his game is franchise-player calibre."

Thus far, Couturier is showing off his high-end puck skills and superior offensive instincts with the West Division-leading Voltigeurs who have bolted to a 7-1-1 start.

"Any discussion of the Quebec league is going to start with Couturier," one NHL scout for a Western Conference team told B2011DW recently. "The skating isn't a huge problem-- it's something he can fix with some time and training. But everything else-- the things you can't teach a player like size and how to see a developing play and then make the play-- he's so very good at that. Right now, he's done exactly what we were expecting, so he's going to be in that top bracket (for the draft) all year, I suspect."

The Bruins don't appear to be in the market for Couturier's services even if Toronto has another finish like they had last season, however. Should the Bruins find themselves in position to take a player in the top-two selections, it's hard to imagine that they wouldn't be trying to land a top defenseman. Of course, the best way to build a team is to accrue assets, so if Couturier is truly seen as a potential franchise cornerstone, the B's will do what they need to in order to ensure that they land the best possible talent. They can always try and trade for a defenseman later.

It's early October and the thought of Couturier ending up with the Bruins certainly seems like it would be a pipe dream, but then again, most folks believed the same thing about Tyler Seguin a year ago.

Here's a QMJHL profile on him:


  1. I saw Sean Couturier listed as a LW in last years THN Draft Preview but now everything I read projects him as a C in the NHL. Where do you see him playing at the next level?

  2. With that size and skill, you have to put him at center, baby!

    That said-- it will depend on which NHL team ends up with him and how they're doing at C.

    Bottom line is-- like most high-end players of his ilk, he can play pretty much any forward position, but teams looking to capitalize on his prodigious natural talent and hockey sense will probably find he fits best at the pivot.