The Case For Sean Couturier At #1

TORONTO CANADA - JANUARY 19: Sean Couturier #7 of Team Cherry fires a backhand shot on Liam Liston #33 of Team Orr in the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Prospects game on January 19 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Sean Couturier has been sliding down nearly everyone's draft boards since September of 2010. TSN's pre-season rankings had Couturier in a dead heat for first with Adam Larsson but by mid-season, Couturier slipped to 4th.  ISS has Couturier ranked 4th, while the craziness continues for Craig Button - he's got Couturier ranked 6th.  The Scouting Report went against the trend - moving Couturier up to 2nd in their mid-season rankings, up one spot from 3rd in their pre-season rankings.

Couturier put up an outstanding season for the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the QMJHL this season, winning the league's Michel-Brière Trophy for Most Valuable Player.  His Voltigeurs swept through the first round of the Q playoffs with Couturier leading the way.  He was the only first-year draft-eligible player to make the Canadian World Junior Roster.  All of his arrows are pointing up, so why is he dropping?  It's the always-nebulous intangibles that are doing him in.  Hustle, hitting, determination, grit -- these words are now popping up in discussions and articles about Couturier and nearly every time, the article is about Couturier lacking these things.

After the jump, I'll look at the statistics behind Couturier's outstanding season and demonstrate that the 6'4" 195 lb center might have a lock on the #1 overall spot.

The QMJHL conveniently tracks faceoffs taken and faceoffs won on each game sheet and compiles the numbers in their "skaters" category.  Couturier and center Marc-Olivier Vachon combined to take 2747 of Drummondville's 4600+ faceoffs.  Couturier was second in the league in faceoffs per game.
Name Team GP WFO FO F% FO/G
Philip-Michaël Devos  Gatineau Olympiques 68 964 1763 0.547 25.926
Sean Couturier Drummondville Voltigeurs 58 778 1430 0.544 24.655
Alex Saulnier Moncton Wildcats 65 782 1481 0.528 22.785
Marc-Olivier Vachon Drummondville Voltigeurs 59 757 1317 0.575 22.322
Jérémy Gouchie Montréal Juniors 66 824 1445 0.570 21.894
Jean-Gabriel Pageau Gatineau Olympiques 67 800 1431 0.559 21.358
Michael Chaput Lewiston MAINEiacs 62 746 1324 0.563 21.355
Joël Champagne Québec Remparts 68 879 1435 0.613 21.103
Philippe Maillet Victoriaville Tigres 67 652 1382 0.472 20.627
Alexandre Touchette Val-d'Or Foreurs 37 392 753 0.521 20.351

 

Couturier's .544 faceoff percentage ranked 28th in the league.  Incidentally, Joël Champagne, a former Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick, led the league in faceoff percentage at .613.  The Maple Leafs have relinquished their rights to Champagne, a 6'4" center, and the Oilers may want to explore signing him to a free agent contract.  Couturier excelled in the faceoff circle as an 18-year-old, something the 20-somethings roving center ice at Rexall have yet to do and may never do.

Couturier's ability to generate his own offense was one of the reasons he was added Team Canada for the World Junior Championships.  That ability is reflected in his shots totals.

Name Team Pos GP S S/G
Louis Leblanc Montréal Juniors C 51 240 4.706
Brandon Hynes Victoriaville Tigres RW 66 303 4.591
Ondrej Palat Drummondville Voltigeurs LW 61 263 4.311
Marek Hrivik Moncton Wildcats LW 59 250 4.237
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault Québec Remparts C 68 265 3.897
David Gilbert Acadie-Bathurst Titan C 52 202 3.885
Sean Couturier Drummondville Voltigeurs C 58 223 3.845
Guillaume Goulet Victoriaville Tigres RW 59 225 3.814
Michaël Bournival Shawinigan Cataractes C 56 212 3.786
Michael Kirkpatrick Saint John Sea Dogs C 63 238 3.778

 

Even though Montreal Canadiens draft pick Louis Leblanc stood out, it was Couturier who led all first-time draft-eligible players with 3.845 shots per game.  Saint John Sea Dog Zack Phillips averaged 3.433 and teammate Jonathan Huberdeau, a late riser in the rankings and yet another possible top five pick averaged 3.015 shots per game.

The QMJHL is widely believed to be the inferior CHL league, but there is an area in which the league outpaces the OHL and WHL, even the NHL, and that's in tracking scoring chances.  Each QMJHL game sheet contains a column titled "DS".  DS is the scorer's notation for Dangerous Shots, i.e. scoring chances.  Couturier once again excelled in this category.

Name Team Pos GP DS DS/G
Michael Kirkpatrick Saint John Sea Dogs C 63 184 2.921
Étienne Brodeur Lewiston MAINEiacs LW 68 194 2.853
Marek Hrivik Moncton Wildcats LW 59 158 2.678
Ondrej Palat Drummondville Voltigeurs LW 61 161 2.639
Trevor Parkes Montréal Juniors RW 60 146 2.433
Jonathan Huberdeau Saint John Sea Dogs C 67 162 2.418
Sean Couturier Drummondville Voltigeurs C 58 138 2.379
Samuel Morneau  PEI Rocket LW 67 155 2.313
Louis Leblanc Montréal Juniors C 51 112 2.196
Jonathan Hazen Val-d'Or Foreurs RW 62 136 2.194

 

The Sea Dogs machine catches up with Couturier as Huberdeau slightly outpaces him in the scoring chances metric

What about scoring chances as a percentage of the team total?  Couturier is superior.

Name Team Pos DS DS/G Team DS % of Team
Marek Hrivik Moncton Wildcats LW 158 2.678 989 0.160
Jonathan Hazen Val-d'Or Foreurs RW 136 2.194 889 0.153
Étienne Brodeur Lewiston MAINEiacs LW 194 2.853 1334 0.145
Carl Gélinas Halifax Mooseheads LW 140 2.059 971 0.144
Ondrej Palat Drummondville Voltigeurs LW 161 2.639 1233 0.131
Jonathan Marchessault Québec Remparts C 120 1.765 923 0.130
Félix Lefrançois Rimouski Océanic C 117 1.800 910 0.129
Devon MacAusland Moncton Wildcats C 123 1.809 989 0.124
Michael Kirkpatrick Saint John Sea Dogs C 184 2.921 1490 0.123
Brandon Hynes Victoriaville Tigres RW 128 1.939 1037 0.123
Guillaume Asselin Chicoutimi Saguenéens RW 110 1.667 898 0.122
Trevor Parkes Montréal Juniors RW 146 2.433 1217 0.120
Sébastien Trudeau Acadie-Bathurst Titan RW 125 1.838 1058 0.118
Yanni Gourde Victoriaville Tigres C 122 1.794 1037 0.118
Logan Shaw Cape Breton Screaming Eagle RW 99 1.456 866 0.114
Martin Frk Halifax Mooseheads RW 110 1.774 971 0.113
Zach O'Brien Acadie-Bathurst Titan RW 119 2.052 1058 0.112
Jean-Gabriel Pageau Gatineau Olympiques C 139 2.075 1237 0.112
Benjamin Casavant Shawinigan Cataractes LW 121 1.779 1079 0.112
Sean Couturier Drummondville Voltigeurs C 138 2.379 1233 0.112

 

Couturier ranked 20th in the QMJHL.  Note the player just in front of him at .113 - Martin Frk.  Frk, the talented Czech who will be draft eligible and maybe the prize of the draft in 2012, is already capable of carrying a CHL team.  Couturier is well clear of the Saint John players by this metric.

Couturier is not just a setup man - he's an excellent goal scorer as well.

Name Team GP G A PTS G/G
Étienne Brodeur Lewiston MAINEiacs 68 53 30 83 0.779
Tye McGinn Gatineau Olympiques 42 31 33 64 0.738
Philip-Michaël Devos  Gatineau Olympiques 68 47 67 114 0.691
Jonathan Hazen Val-d'Or Foreurs 62 41 42 83 0.661
Marek Hrivik Moncton Wildcats 59 38 41 79 0.644
Jonathan Huberdeau Saint John Sea Dogs 67 43 62 105 0.642
Ondrej Palat Drummondville Voltigeurs 61 39 57 96 0.639
Sean Couturier Drummondville Voltigeurs 58 36 60 96 0.621
Jonathan Lessard Acadie-Bathurst Titan 62 37 29 66 0.597
Jonathan Marchessault Québec Remparts 68 40 55 95 0.588

 

On a per game basis, Huberdeau and Couturier are very close - remarkable considering Saint John's dominance and firepower.

Couturier's play-making ability has been discussed since World Juniors' summer camp.  He's tall and rangy and has great ability down low as well as in transition.  His passing skills are second-to-none in this draft class.

Name Team GP G A PTS A/G
Sean Couturier Drummondville Voltigeurs 58 36 60 96 1.034
Gabriel Lévesque Acadie-Bathurst Titan 68 37 70 107 1.029
Philip-Michaël Devos  Gatineau Olympiques 68 47 67 114 0.985
Ondrej Palat Drummondville Voltigeurs 61 39 57 96 0.934
Jonathan Huberdeau Saint John Sea Dogs 67 43 62 105 0.925
Alex Saulnier Moncton Wildcats 65 25 60 85 0.923
Andrej Nestrasil PEI Rocket 58 19 51 70 0.879
Joël Champagne Québec Remparts 68 24 58 82 0.853
Zack Phillips Saint John Sea Dogs 67 38 57 95 0.851
Dave Labrecque Shawinigan Cataractes 58 27 48 75 0.828

 

He was the top man in the Q in assists per game and a big reason behind  Ondrej Palat's season.

To wrap it all up, the points per game looks just as good, if not better than all of the rest of the numbers.

Name Team GP G A PTS P/G
Philip-Michaël Devos  Gatineau Olympiques 68 47 67 114 1.68
Sean Couturier Drummondville Voltigeurs 58 36 60 96 1.66
Gabriel Lévesque Acadie-Bathurst Titan 68 37 70 107 1.57
Ondrej Palat Drummondville Voltigeurs 61 39 57 96 1.57
Jonathan Huberdeau Saint John Sea Dogs 67 43 62 105 1.57
Tye McGinn Gatineau Olympiques 42 31 33 64 1.52
Zack Phillips Saint John Sea Dogs 67 38 57 95 1.42
Jonathan Marchessault Québec Remparts 68 40 55 95 1.4
Marek Hrivik Moncton Wildcats 59 38 41 79 1.34
Jonathan Hazen Val-d'Or Foreurs 62 41 42 83 1.34

 

Couturier was a point-scoring machine, missing the top spot in points per game by two points - thus losing the title to overager Philip-Michaël Devos.

Percentage of offense:

SumOil, the man behind our CHL bible, will have an upcoming article detailing the percentage of offensive contribution from all of the draft-eligible players he's been tracking in the CHL this season.  Should Couturier show favorably in comparison to his competition, Couturier should be a lock for the first forward drafted.

Sean Couturier is a huge center, an outstanding playmaker, an excellent goal scorer, an incredible faceoff man and a superior two-way player.  That the conversation isn't centered around Sean vs. Adam (doesn't have the same ring to it, now does it?) is strange.  That the scuttlebutt is Couturier falling out of the top five is laughable.

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