Flyers GM: Couturier 'needs to push harder north' in order to become Selke Trophy candidate

by Sep 2, 8:32 PM

Over the course of his first three seasons in the NHL, Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier displayed a defensive, shut-down presence that is atypical of young centers. As a result, he's been touted as a future Selke Trophy candidate as the League's top defensive forward.

General manager Ron Hextall is a big fan of what Couturier does on the defensive side of the puck, telling CSN Philly, "[I] love what he does, the unselfishness, the team first, loving the challenge of playing against the other team’s top line. That’s awesome stuff."

At the same time, Hextall acknowledges Couturier needs to be more assertive with the puck in order to become a truly elite, two-way player:

Typically, a young player learns the defensive part after the offensive part. [Couturier] in juniors was equally good on offense as defense, but up here, obviously, his defensive game is ahead of his offensive game. There’s another level. A couple of levels for Coots and you’re damn right, we expect it. He needs to push harder north. 

It’s a little bit of a mentality, a little bit of an attitude, but there’s going to be expectations placed on him that haven’t been [there] up to this point. He’s a young player and rightfully so, there has not been expectations from him to produce at a high level, but he’s been in the league long enough now where he needs to push the bar, offensively.

Couturier averaged 96 points in two seasons with the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs prior to being drafted eighth overall by the Flyers in 2011; in three seasons with the Flyers, however, he averaged only 27 points, registering a career-high 13 goals and 26 assists this past season.

As a point of comparison, 2014 Selke winner Patrice Bergeron scored 30 goals and added 32 assists while locking things down in the Boston Bruins' end this past season.

Clearly Hextall believes the sky is the limit for Couturier, and is surely hoping he develops in the mold of Bergeron, Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar, all of whom were finalists for the Selke this past season and have raised the Stanley Cup in recent years.

Sep 24, 5:13 PM

Flyers' Couturier looking to take more 'calculated risks' with Simmonds on his wing

by Sep 24, 5:13 PM

Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is on record as saying he wants center Sean Couturier to "push harder north" in an attempt to add some offensive production to his strong defensive game (see below). In the early days of training camp, head coach Craig Berube put Wayne Simmonds on Couturier's wing, and is hoping to see positive results at both ends of the ice.

“They are a shutdown unit that plays against top lines sometimes, but that doesn't meant they can’t score,” Berube said, as per CSN Philly. “You have to be able to play both sides and produce offensively.”

Couturier, who possesses Selke-level abilities when it comes to shutting down the opposition, believes the addition of the more offensively-minded Simmonds could push him to new heights in the offensive zone:

(Simmonds) can help me create some chances and get some goals. He has a way to score goals. He knows where to be. Having a guy like that on my line, I have to take more risks offensively and maybe, it can help us score more. I am still a young player, learning a lot. The first couple years, I have played solid defensively, and not taken a lot of chances offensively. If I want to establish myself as a two-way player, I will have to take more calculated risks. Create more opportunities.

For his part, Simmonds contends Couturier could "put up a ton of points" if used in an offensive role, but the center is setting more modest expectations for the future: “I know eventually, I can be a 50-point guy,” Couturier said. “It’s up to me. Put in around 20 goals. Maybe 40-45 assists.”

Last season's Selke Trophy winner - Patrice Bergeron - recorded 62 points in 2013-14, meaning Couturier could indeed put himself in the conversation of the NHL's best two-way forward with that kind of production.

Feature photo courtesy of Eric Hartline / USA TODAY Sports