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Couturier preps to avoid sophomore slump


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Randy Miller

VOORHEES — Flyers center Sean Couturier spent his first summer as an NHL veteran driving back and forth between the three places he can call home.

The 19-year-old rising star rents an apartment in Drummondville, Quebec — his old junior hockey town — because his girlfriend is from the area, and that’s where he spent most of the offseason. Couturier also made occasional 65-mile drives to Montreal to see his parents, and three weeks ago he logged another 500 miles to South Jersey to make final preparations for a 2012-13 hockey season he’s hoping against hope doesn’t start late (or not at all) due to a possible lockout.

“My dad played hockey, so I traveled quite a bit as a kid,” Couturier said Tuesday after doing some on-ice coaching at Skate Zone with youngsters from the Flyers Hockey School.

Quite a bit indeed.

A French Canadian, Sean was born in Arizona while his father, NHL cup-of-coffee forward Sylvain Couturier, was playing in the International Hockey League for the 1992-93 Phoenix Roadrunners. From there his family spent the next seven winters in minor-league hockey towns like Glens Falls, N.Y., and Milwaukee and overseas in two German cities. During the summer time, the family returned to their Montreal home. Later, the Couturiers headed to New Brunswick for a couple winters after Sylvain got into coaching.

Despite following a standout rookie NHL season with some well-earned down time, Couturier put his body through a lot of offseason training. Frequent trips to a Drummondville gym led to Couturier adding five pounds of muscle onto his body. Last season, he was a borderline-skinny 199 pounds. He’s now a sturdy 204 and looks 220. Meantime, he signed up for a few 1-on-1 power-skating sessions in an attempt to improve a part of his game already considered a strength.

A goal this coming season, Couturier maintains, is to improve upon his 13 goals and 27 points without sacrificing anything that already has earned him a reputation as an elite shutdown center, which is pretty darned impressive for someone of his age and short NHL resume.

“Of course, I’d love to contribute more offensively,” Couturier said. “At the same time, I’m going to stay the same player I am. I can’t change. I’ve always been defense first, even in juniors. I know I have the offensive tools to produce and it’ll come with time.”

Couturier was a two-way star in juniors, topping out at 96 points his final two seasons, then again at times last season for the Flyers, most notably in Game 2 of an Eastern Conference Semifinal series with Pittsburgh when he scored a hat trick and assisted on Claude Giroux’s empty-netter for a four-point night.

From opening-night on when Couturier won a final-minute face-off to help seal a one-goal road victory against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, Couturier proved the Flyers’ made a wise decision keeping their 2011 No. 1 draft pick in the NHL instead of returning him to Drummondville for a final year of juniors. Besides contributing offensively in 77 regular-season games, Couturier had a lot of success shadowing high-scoring forwards such as scoring champion Evgeni Malkin, plus he finished with a plus-18 plus-minus rating, second on the team to Scott Hartnell’s plus-19.

“Coming to camp this year, I’m more prepared and more ready,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to get going.”

When the Flyers get going is an unanswerable question right now due to the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement expiring Sept. 15 and owners threatening a lockout if a new deal isn’t reached by then.

“I follow what’s going on a little bit here and there,” said Couturier, the eighth-overall pick in the 2011 draft. “I get some news from a few of our players. We’re trying to stay positive about having a season, but we’ll see what happens.”

Meanwhile, Couturier is working out daily in South Jersey and living in a spare bedroom in Haddonfield with teammate Danny Briere, a fellow French Canadian who is 15 years older. Danny and his three boys were Couturier’s roomies last season, and the group got along so well that it plans to stay together for another season.

“I like it there,” Couturier said. “It’s pretty fun. I’m actually closer in age to the kids than Danny. Living there helped me adapt (to the NHL and Philadelphia). It was a new environment, new country, new everything for me. Living on my own would have maybe made it even harder to adapt. Just being around Danny and having someone you can rely on all day was great for me.”

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Thanks for posting. I love this kid. I love his attitude, his unselfishness and his all around game. I was shocked he fell in the draft and I expected him gone earlier. I honestly was totally hyped about the Flyers drafting Dougie Hamilton but when Couts fell I was psyched we took him.

I think he will have a bigger role this season and I truly hope the Flyers would move Danny Briere to the top line to play Giroux's wing man so Couts could move up to 3rd line center and get more minutes.

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@Dynamo 47

My gut reaction to Homer leaving Hamilton on the board was anger. But it was fleeting. I knew enough about Couturier to know that we got a steal - Homer really did have to take him. I hope he doesn't get "Staaled" like all the pundits are sayng will happen and turned into a permanent 3rd line checking centre. He should see time on the PP at the very least.

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@Dynamo 47

My gut reaction to Homer leaving Hamilton on the board was anger. But it was fleeting. I knew enough about Couturier to know that we got a steal - Homer really did have to take him. I hope he doesn't get "Staaled" like all the pundits are sayng will happen and turned into a permanent 3rd line checking centre. He should see time on the PP at the very least.

Yup, very good point. With Giroux and Briere (and eventually, Schenn) ahead of him, that could very well happen.

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Thanks for posting 101... great article on what seems a great kid. I still am amazed at how well he played last year and think he is one of the "special" young players that will not havce a sophmore slump. The one thing with Cooter is we have not even begun to see his offensive side...

Love this kid... currently, my favorite Flyer (sans G of course)

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@Podein25

i would think he could, He played well on Briere's wing during the playoffs. I've always wondered why some centers have trouble switching to wing. I can understand the reverse, but as a player, I felt that it was an easy switch to wing from center.

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@AJgoal

well you must be "a good hockey player" (@Podein25 all rights reserved) then...perhaps braden schenn is a good hockey player too.

some people can't take a pass on their backhand at speed or at all... ,aren't as good without the puck , forget their defensive assignment because they're used to playing center. if a guy has the good all around game, they can move back and forth more easily.

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@brelic

It could. Do you think Schenn is on his way to becoming a winger (albeit one who can easily slot in at centre if need be)? He finished last year at wing didn't he?

Good question. I would move one of Briere or Schenn to wing on the 2nd line with Simmer or Read. 3rd line would be Coots, Feds, and Simmer/Read. Kinda moves Talbot to the 4th, which some people think he's more suited for, with Rinaldo and Wellwood.

I'd at least try that and see what sticks.

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but as a player, I felt that it was an easy switch to wing from center.

I never could do it, which is funny considering what @mojo1917 just posted. But it was really only as an adult, playing beer league that I ever tried wing (i.e. once the wheels were gone and I felt I couldn't keep up at centre against much younger players). I hated it. Felt out of the play all the time and no ability to dictate anything. Promptly became a D-man at age 30 - waaay better.

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@AJgoal

well you must be "a good hockey player" (@Podein25 all rights reserved) then...perhaps braden schenn is a good hockey player too.

some people can't take a pass on their backhand at speed or at all... ,aren't as good without the puck , forget their defensive assignment because they're used to playing center. if a guy has the good all around game, they can move back and forth more easily.

Maybe that's it, Mojo. I haven't really considered the pass receiving aspect, and if you're a center, you don't play away from the puck as much, so it's not as easy to pick up.. Defensive assignments just seem so much easier as a winger.

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For what it's worth, and from an "outsider's" perspective, I don't see Coots having a sophomore slump at all. From what I've seen, his drive and work ethic won't allow it to happen. And from reading the article, he's obviously got the right attitude as well. Outside of Giroux, he's the most exciting young Flyer to watch in my opinion. You guys know best as far as what you want for line combos, but whatever keeps him away from Malkin would suit me just fine. ;)

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I know this is totally meaningless, but what is his nationality? Wikipedia has him classified as an American and a Canadian. I'm pretty sure you can't be both. I know he played for the Canadian teams, but that doesn't really mean anything.

Clearly, I'm bored.

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but as a player, I felt that it was an easy switch to wing from center.

Yeah, to echo what the other guys have said, I too have trouble with it. As center, your position is always related to the puck, if not on it. You get used to being able to roam the entire sheet of ice, and mentally, its hard to break out of that frame of mind at wing, where you have responsibilities away from the puck.

They are really quite different positions. While at center, its nice that most scoring plays involve you. On the flip side, most goals against can be brought back to a play you didn't make, lack of back checking, or coverage of another player you didn't fill in for. :)

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I know this is totally meaningless, but what is his nationality? Wikipedia has him classified as an American and a Canadian. I'm pretty sure you can't be both. I know he played for the Canadian teams, but that doesn't really mean anything.

Clearly, I'm bored.

He was born in Arizona to a Canadian hockey father, and grew up in New Brunswick. My guess is dual citizenship, but Canadian as far as hockey goes.

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He was born in Arizona to a Canadian hockey father, and grew up in New Brunswick. My guess is dual citizenship, but Canadian as far as hockey goes.

I think FC's right...Anyone born on US territory has US citizenship. Plus he would have Canadian citizenship through his parents. So I think he's probably a dual citizen, would explain why there's confusion among different sources.

Edited by Lucky13
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