Sean Couturier emerged as the Flyers number one center last season when Claude Giroux was moved to left wing. The shutdown forward connected with the captain immediately and went on to post career highs in goals (31), assists (45) and points (76) while finishing second in the Selke Trophy voting.
In 2018-19, he is proving that his career year was no fluke.
Back in September, Couturier was injured and didn’t have a full training camp to prepare for the season. Subsequently, his first month of hockey was rather lackluster. He picked up just four goals in 12 games. Since then, Couturier has arguably been playing as good, if not better as last season. He has 44 points in his previous 41 games and has been contributing, once again, in every zone.
The 26-year-old center has also posted excellent possession numbers. His 54% Corsi For % and 6.44 Relative CF% are unbelievable. In simple terms, the Flyers tend to be in the offensive a lot more when #14 is on the ice, despite him starting in the defensive zone close to 55% of the time. Couturier probably won’t surpass his career high in points, but he’s been scoring at a higher pace (0.43 goals per game vs 0.38 last year).
— Brandon Murphy (@2Murphy8) December 13, 2018
What Couturier is most known for is his defensive play. He is 6-foot-3, 211 pounds, he can win battles, faceoffs and play a sound game in the defensive end. He is always trusted with the opponents top line. This season, he’s seen the first lines of Florida, Columbus, and Boston the most. There won’t be any shortage of difficult matchups either as the Flyers are going to see the Penguins, Leafs, and Lightning multiple times from here until the end of the season.
What most people don’t realize is that while Couturier tries to shut down the top lines, he also faces the other teams’ top shutdown centers (Bergeron, Barkov) and defensive pairs due to playing with Giroux and Travis Konecny, a line that doesn’t lack skill. His offensive output is gravy when you consider all the work he does defensively.
Couturier is currently on pace for 74 points, which is very good considering his slow start. He should also be in the running for the Selke Trophy again. Oh, and he is still under contract for another three years at a 4.3 million dollar cap hit.
This is the Sean Couturier the Flyers had hoped for sooner. He was drafted eighth overall back in 2011 and was known as a two-way powerhouse with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. He had back-to-back 96-point seasons despite missing games due to mono in his draft year which affected his draft ranking.
Now the Flyers are reaping the rewards of patiently waiting for him to develop, as he’s become one of the Flyers biggest contributors since the start of last season and appears to only be increasing his level of play.
A lot of fans wanted him traded years ago, but it’s safe to say he was well worth the wait.
Photos by Kate Frese