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Slip in rankings no slight to Couturier's talent

Thursday, 04.28.2011 / 4:10 PM ET / Features
By Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com Staff Writer
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Slip in rankings no slight to Couturier\'s talent\r\n
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Just because Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL) center Sean Couturier slipped from No. 2 to No. 6 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters available for the 2011 Entry Draft, it doesn't mean he's lost a step.
 
When the scouts voted to determine their top 10 during the final meetings in Toronto, the overwhelming theme was that the five players ahead of Couturier earned their positions with superior play over the second half of the season. Couturier, meanwhile, remained consistently steady.
 
"Sean Couturier is a good hockey player, but there were players who got better," Chris Bordeleau, Central Scouting's chief QMJHL scout, told NHL.com. "This was Sean's third year in the league and (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins is such a great, skilled player, so there's nothing you can do about that. Right now as a group (at Central Scouting), we all feel Gabriel Landeskog will probably play in the NHL next year -- he's ready. We have Nathan Beaulieu and Jonathan Huberdeau, who have both taken giant steps and improved immensely. Huberdeau has NHL hands right now.

"Dougie Hamilton has really shown what he's capable of doing. Thing is, yes, Couturier is sixth, but that doesn't mean the sixth guy couldn't go first or the first guy go sixth. We're just projecting that these guys will play in the NHL, so the first one could be as good as the sixth."
 
The 6-foot-4, 197-pound Couturier not only was voted Best Professional Prospect, but also was named Most Valuable Player in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season. He had 96 points for the second straight season (36 goals, 60 assists), despite playing 10 fewer games due to his participation in the World Junior Championship for Team Canada in January.
 
"The WJC was a great experience overall," Couturier said. "It was a sad ending … a bad ending (losing to Russia in the gold-medal game). But I try and take the positives out of it. It's fast hockey, it's the best in the world and just playing against the best, you get better."
 
In Drummondville's four-game sweep of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the opening round of the QMJHL playoffs, Couturier had 3 goals and 8 points. He had 3 goals in a six-game loss in the second round to the Gatineau Olympiques. His 6 goals were a team high, and his 11 points tied for the team lead.

In his first season with the Voltigeurs, Couturier was coached by current Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher.
 
"Guy was a great coach," Couturier said. "In that first year, I didn't know what to expect, but having Guy around made my adaption 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 (as a rookie in 2008-09), 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."

He was right as Couturier led the league with 96 points in 68 games last season. He was the first 17-year-old to lead the QMJHL in scoring since Sidney Crosby of the Rimouski Oceanic did it in 2004-05 with 168 points in 62 games.

Boucher feels whichever team drafts Couturier not only will be getting an exceptional hockey player, but a fantastic person.
 
"He's not just a terrific athlete, but individual," Boucher told NHL.com. "He's first in his class at school with over a 90-percent average … he's an extremely bright hockey player. He sees the game at a slow pace like the top guys do, and his puck protection is incredible.
 
"You don't take the puck off of him. He's a big center who wins the faceoffs and is extremely reliable defensively. When he was 16, I had to push him to go offense because he wanted to be so reliable defensively. He has great vision and is slowly building up his speed … he's going to be a terrific NHL player."
 
Couturier won 54 percent of his 1,430 faceoffs during the regular season.
 
When told Couturier was rated No. 6 on Central Scouting's final list, Boucher offered his former protégé the following advice:
 
"Here's the thing, he has incredible puck protection along the boards, but he's just got to take that puck protection closer to the net. Sean is probably a better feeder; he's one of those guys who likes to dish the puck. If you do that enough, you forget how good you are at protecting pucks, finding pucks around the net and scoring. That would be my advice to him -- go to the net."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
K. Palmieri 82 30 27 3 57
A. Henrique 80 30 20 10 50
T. Zajac 74 14 28 3 42
M. Cammalleri 42 14 24 15 38
D. Severson 72 1 20 -8 21
R. Boucher 39 8 11 -13 19
D. Schlemko 67 6 13 -22 19
J. Moore 73 4 15 -12 19
A. Larsson 82 3 15 15 18
J. Blandisi 41 5 12 -14 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 27 25 6 .924 2.15
K. Kinkaid 9 9 1 .904 2.81
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