Sean Couturier vs Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

At the beginning of 2011 when Central Scouting came out with their mid season draft rankings, the consensus was that Sean Couturier was ahead, albeit slightly, of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Since then, Nugent-Hopkins stock has gone skyward and Couturier has been left in the dust. Why is that?

I've abused google over the past 5 or 6 days to try and find where one player gained momentum and the other faltered. Couturier's stock fell slightly because of his lack of production at the WJHC. It's understandable, it's a big tournament where there is a lot of attention. Whether that's fair or not is another story.

I had initially thought that perhaps Nugent-Hopkins exploded offensively and out-produced Couturier over the final months of the season, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Since the beginning of January these are their numbers:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 34GP 21G 38A (0.62 GPG, 1.12 APG, 1.74 PPG)

Sean Couturier: 26GP 20G 24A (0.80 GPG, 0.92 APG, 1.69 PPG)

The difference over 34 games is 59 points for Nugent-Hopkins and 57 points for Couturier. Nothing separating them there.

I started to dig around more. I started looking for stories and message board comments that pumped one player up or took another player down. I looked for stories that started to hype a player as the more consensus pick. The results from that are interesting.

Around February 10 is when I noticed a big shift in opinions. There was a heavy shift towards Ryan Nugent-Hopkinds around that time. I decided to look it up and there seems to be a huge reason why that seems to have happened.

Nugent-Hopkins exploded for 23 points (6G 17A) in 7 games from January 23rd to February 4th. That's a 3.29 PPG average. In those 7 games he managed to record two 4 point games and a 6 point game. In that same stretch, Couturier scored 12 points in 7 games (including a 5 point game), which was 1.71 points per game (slightly above his season average of 1.65).

I wonder how much this stretch had to do with Nugent-Hopkins soaring up the rankings. If it did, what explains Couturier's drop? Was it a matter of seeing some holes in his game or is it a case of "over-falling" (i.e. Cam Fowler)?

I'm trying to recall a ranking that worked out like this, where a guy fell so far after being near the top at mid season. Generally what happens is a player has a strong finish that propels them (i.e. Hall jumping clear of Seguin, Huburdreau climbing up during the playoffs, etc...). Angelo Esposito comes to mind but he was trending downwards for well over a season. Brule at one point was a contender to Crosby but again, he had a gradual fall.

It would be nice to hear from a scout about when they started changing their minds. I'd be a tad worried if the answer was early February.

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