Flyers Vs. Penguins ECQF Game 2: A Coming of Age for Sean Couturier

In a locker room that wasn’t too small (but felt like a sardine container), Sean Couturier hung around, alone, at his locker stall. After a day of Philadelphia Flyers rookie camp, he hardly stood out.

It was a normal-sized locker room, but the overflow of rookie bodies were packed in. Players who had time in the NHL the year before were clearly confident. Camp invitees were having a blast, just glad to be there.  The sound of the room was loud and obnoxious; like a high school lunchroom.

Couturier, who had been picked with the eight overall selection in the 2011 draft, wasn’t among the rowdy and rambunctious. The kid who had been selected with a draft-pick that was involved in the Jeff Carter trade was beside himself.

He looked like he didn’t weigh more than 150 pounds soaking wet. He looked like he didn’t quite fit in and didn’t know how or where to start fitting in. He looked like he must have felt when Zac Rinaldo ran him over in practice….shell-shocked.

When asked about what he had to do to make the team, he was quiet. When asked about the pressure of being picked with a part of Jeff Carter’s trade package, he was shy. He was the deer and everything about the situation was the headlights.

“My main goal is to make the team,” he said. “I’m going to work hard this summer, so I can be in the best shape I can be coming to camp.  I’m just going to give it everything I got and it’s going to be up to the staff to decide.”

After he played well in the preseason, the staff decided to let Couturier hang around for the start of the regular season. Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette put him on the ice in important moments. For the final defensive faceoff of the season opener at Boston, there he was.

When the Flyers reached the nine game mark in the season, Laviolette was asked about keeping Couturier on the team. He plainly stated that he was the best defensive forward in black and orange. Despite the groans of many fans who expected to see his development thwarted, the gap-toothed kid was in Philadelphia for the duration.

His days playing in Drummondville for the Voltigeurs of the QMJHL were over.

It seemed like he would be bait. For a long season, an 18-year-old kid couldn’t possibly endure an entire NHL season at his weight. He looked like he would break in half eventually when checked into the boards.

But, Couturier used his brains to stay away from the bone-shattering hits. When on the ice, he put himself in a position to make a play. Not the glamorous play, but the right play. He sat in the penalty box just 14 times in the season; and he was far from being a liability when on the ice.

After Friday’s thrilling come from behind 8-5 win, he had his first career hat trick. Just two games into his playoff career and he found the net three times. What’s more, he has worked feverishly at defending soon-to-be Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin at times seemed frustrated (he has two point in the first two games), and Couturier continued to catalyze the displeasure. Although the series is far from over, there’s no doubt that the kid deserves credit thus far. His defense has been more impressive than his hat-trick, despite getting less attention.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Flyers will make it to the second round. However, fans in Philadelphia are seeing the type of potential Couturier has, even if he goes about it quietly.

Seven months after he stood sheepishly at an unnamed locker among strangers as peers, things have changed for Couturier. He may still be quiet. He might continue to be shy.

While his demeanor is mellow, his play has been loud. It may be louder than the locker room in Voorhees, NJ in September.

His goal was to make the team.

Friday, his goals made the team go.

 

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