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2018-19 Player Review: Sean Couturier, still elite

Elite two-way center at just 26 years old? In this economy?

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers had a bunch of roster holes a season ago, but first line center certainly wasn’t one of them.

That’d be the spot that Sean Couturier has held down for the past two seasons now, accumulating 152 points in 162 games since taking over the mantle with Claude Giroux heading off to the wing prior to last season. That’s nearly point-per game production, something nearly every NHL team dreams of having at 1C. Couturier has also racked up 64 goals in that span, too, expanding his game to the very point of a fully complete center in all three zones.

But not only does Couturier produce offensively, the beauty is that he has now added that production on top of the things he was already really, really good at. That would of course be his top-notch defensive play, which has resulted in four top-10 finishes in the Selke Trophy voting in his now eight NHL seasons. Even as his offensive production goes up, he still provides perhaps his most valuable work at the other end against top competition more often than not.

And those offensive numbers could even just be scratching the surface as Couturier has done most of his damage with 58 of his 76 points in 2018-19 coming at even strength. Combine that stellar even strength production with his power play usage climb in each of the past two seasons and the Flyers have will soon have a dynamic force at 1C in all situations and there aren’t many teams who can boast that.

By The Numbers

Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
80 33 43 76 34 223 15%
via Hockeyreference

5v5 Individual Stats

Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
2.08 1.63 7.13 0.69
via Corsica

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
52.25% 6.86% 52.02 4.98 50.00% 98.6
via Corsia

As has been the case for several seasons now, the numbers are nearly flawless across the board for Couturier.

Though he didn’t turn into a possession monster until four years ago — albeit after some ridiculous tough assignments as a young player— Couturier has been a force on the puck. This season was no different as he posted a +7% Corsi For Relative to his Flyers mates despite starting nearly 54% of his shifts in the defensive zone. He’s been outperforming his teammates for several years now, but the fact that he keeps making the gap larger each season is pretty ridiculous.

And if you can believe it, Couturier was actually a bit unlucky in 2018-19. When he was on the ice the Flyers had a save percentage of just 87.7%, well below the league average of around 91%. That skewed some of Couturier’s goal-based metrics, which were already good and would have otherwise been even more impressive. That goes hand-in-hand with Couturier’s PDO, which was about three percent down from his career mark.

Obviously, Couturier doesn’t have any issues operated at even strength and posting elite numbers across the board. What we can look forward to, though, is Couturier expanding his role on the power play, where the Flyers had the league’s 23rd overall unit. Despite having 17 power play points a season ago, good for third on the team, Couturier should have even more opportunity with Wayne Simmonds fully out of the picture and not clogging up excess minutes.

Three Burning Questions

Did this player live up to our expectations for this season?

Expectations were certainly high after his breakout 31-goal campaign in his debut as 1C last season and Couturier didn’t disappoint in year two.A new career high in goals with 33 and a point total equaling his output from a year earlier despite two fewer games. Throw in those extra contests and there’s no doubt that Couturier would have set a new career high in points with that total inching towards the 80-point mark.

We all wanted to see that 2017-18 wasn’t a fluke for Couturier offensively, and there was reason to pause given a career-best shooting percentage of 13.7, but the man went out and proved that it was for real last season. You already know what you’re getting from Couturier from the red line in towards his net, but he’s now proved without a doubt that he’s one of the NHL’s elite pivot’s and the Flyers’ true MVP.

Even with a resurgent Claude Giroux over the past two years, you really wonder where the Flyers would be without No. 14. I shudder to think about, so we’ll just move right along here.

What do we expect from this player next season?

Couturier had already proved his status as one of the NHL’s best defensive forwards and now he’s got a pair of really strong offensive seasons to show that he’s a 200-foot force to be reckon with.

Given full health — and more power play time — along with his normally outstanding even strength scoring and Couturier should easily eclipse 80+ points this season and pot 35-40 goals. If his goal totals don’t creep near lordy lordy look who’s got 40, it’ll be because he’s racking up the apples as teams load up the attention on him.

We all thought 2018-19 would be Couturier’s year to take home the Selke, but a better Flyers team perhaps headed to the playoffs lead by the outstanding pivot would go a long way in securing some hardware.

What would we like to see this player improve on?

Besides finding out how he could clone himself to give the Flyers another one of himself? Because I got nothing, gang.

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