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November 06, 2017

Flyers center Sean Couturier has taken his game to another level this season

In past seasons, any mention of Flyers forward Sean Couturier also came associated with the word "defense."

It’s what the 24-year-old center based his game on and what he was most noted for. The eighth-overall pick in the 2011 draft, Couturier thrived in the role of being a third-line center relied on to handle the muck of nasty chores like fore-checking, penalty kill and defending the opposing team’s top line. 

Sean has embraced the opportunity and is almost playing with a chip on his shoulder, and I think that’s really helped him get to the next level.

Through time and a little patience – not to mention a move up to the the team's first line – it’s since been found out Couturier has an offensive game. 

That couldn’t be more evident than how he’s been a big piece of the Flyers’ success through 15 games. They’re 7-6-2, and, no, it’s not great. Though it is better than 6-7-2, as they were last year after 15 games. 

Couturier has 9 goals and 9 assists through the Flyers’ first 15—and we’re still in November. He’s tied for fourth in the NHL with 18 points. He’s tied for sixth in the league overall with 9 goals. 

Compare that to last year: Couturier didn’t score his 9th goal last season until February 2, 2017, in the Flyers’ 36th game. He didn’t pick his 18th point of the season until March, in the Flyers’ 48th game of the 2016-17. 

But the humble "Coots" isn’t about to take any credit for his success. He says it all has to do with centering a line that features Claude Giroux on his left wing and Jakub Voracek on his right. 

"It’s those guys, they’re the ones setting me up with chances," Couturier said of his line mates Giroux and Voracek. "Hey, this is great, but it is still early. The more teams see us, the more we’ll I’m sure that they’re going to match lines."

"I don’t know if I agree with that [Giroux and I are making Couturier better]," Voracek said. "I think [Couturier] makes us better at both ends."

Couturier’s best seasons were in 2013-14 and 2015-16, when he reached 39 points. His season-bests were 15 goals in 2014-15 and 28 assists in 2015-16. 

"Sean has embraced the opportunity and is almost playing with a chip on his shoulder, and I think that’s really helped him get to the next level," Flyers’ color commentator and national NBC hockey analyst Keith Jones said. "I don’t think he enjoyed or appreciated just being considered a checking-line centerman. 

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"He was waiting for the opportunity, and give him full marks for the way that he’s pounced all over it and has done an exceptional job to start. The concern so much wasn’t about [Couturier], because when he gets going, he can really go. I guess the concern [with moving Couturier to a scoring line] was more of quickness, and getting there for give-and-goes and such. But he’s shown that’s not an issue

"He worked extremely hard in the offseason, as he always has, but it looks to me he was physically prepared for this challenge and he wants to show everybody that he can do it."

There is also a difference in Couturier's personality, Jones notes. There is an air of confidence in his interviews and how he carries himself on the ice.

"Sean is really maturing into a terrific leader as well," Jones said. "He made it early, because of his maturity on the defensive side of the game, and now, it looks like it’s all coming together for him at the right age, because it’s a difficult position to be a No. 1 centerman in this league. This biggest challenge is how you can protect your end. He’s already proven that. Now he’s showing us that he has another element."

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