If I had a vote for the number one overall pick, it would go to Sean Couturier. Why? There’s too just too much. I know he has some footspeed issues and I also know that mono took some of his strength in his draft year. It’s true he wasn’t the star of the WJC team and that both RNH and Huberdeau outshone him at the prospects game.
There’s just too much. He’s extremely talented, he is used in all situations and he’s established a level of ability at the junior level that is just below the elite level kids produced from the CHL in the last 4 seasons. Comparing NHLE’s over several seasons, we get this:
- Taylor Hall 17-29-46 2010
- John Tavares 25-21-46 2009
- Steven Stamkos 23-19-42 2008
- Tyler Seguin 19-22-41 2010
- Ryan Strome 12-28-40 2011
- Evaner Kane 19-20-39 2009
- Sean Couturier 14-24-38 2011
- Ryan Nugent Hopkins 11-27-38 2011
- Jonathan Huberdeau 15-21-36 2011
- Jeff Skinner 19-16-35 2010
The 2011 kids are all in a cluster in the middle-to-the-end of the group. If in fact these numbers play out (and I know you should never compare across seasons and that we don’t know TOI) the difference in offense doesn’t seem to be huge.
The rest of SC’s skill set is a nice match for the Oilers. Big, 2-way C with tremendous skill, he’s not similar in style to Sam Gagner and so when he arrives in the NHL a person could reasonably slot him into the lineup between two quality wingers (say, Hall and Eberle).
I spoke to his coach (Mario Duhamel) a couple of weeks ago about Couturier and he had some interesting things to say:
- On SC’s challenges this year: “At the beginning of the year, the mono had an impact, it hurt hm all year. He never really recovered. I think that also he put a lot of pressure on himself, he’s a guy who really cares about the team. He’s an efficient player on the ice and a quiet leader off the ice. He never really had much time to recover with all of the things he was asked to do. Sean has a lot of hockey behind him for the last three seasons, he went to the Memorial Cup, he played for the U17, U18 Team Canada’s. He was tired this season, we could see that he was tired.”
- SC’s plus arrows: “He’s very efficient offensively and defensively. Sean is the kind of a guy you want on the ice at the end of the game, or if you need a goal or to deny a goal. He’s good on faceoffs and will block shots, he can do it all.”
- Work to do: “For me, he has to focus on his physical strength. He’s a guy who is strong for his age, but for the next level he’ll need to keep improving. He needs to get stronger in his legs.”
- Skating: “When he’s in movement he’s very good, but for his first three steps he needs to improve.”
I mentioned in the RNH profile that it’s probably going to come down to “first step quickness.” I think there’s a thin line between SC and Nugent-Hopkins, and that both have a nice range of skills on their resume. I also wonder how much mono impacted this young man.
The information highway is sophisticated enough for us to know with some certainty that Sean Couturier will not be the first overall pick at the 2011 entry draft. I’d still pick him #1 overall. There’s just too much.