During his last two seasons of junior hockey with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, seeing Sean Couturier
's name on the score sheet was a normal occurrence, thanks to back-to-back 96-point seasons.
It hasn't happened quite that often during his rookie season with the Philadelphia Flyers, but with goals in four straight games, Couturier is starting to make an impact on the offensive side of the ice.
Couturier, one of 12 rookies picked to participate in All-Star Weekend, has earned most of his recognition this season thanks to his outstanding defensive play. He's second among all rookie forwards in shorthanded ice time per game at 2:42, he's won 46.2 percent of his faceoffs and coach Peter Laviolette has shown willingness to use the 19-year-old in all situations.
Now, however, it appears he's starting to bring some of that offense to go with his defensive play.
"I think what's been impressive about his last few games is his shot in general," Laviolette said. "The goals that he's scored, they're goal-scorers' goals. He's showed poise and patience and then when he released it, he released it on the money."
In 39 games, Couturier has 9 goals and 7 assists. The recent offensive flurry comes after he had no goals and 3 assists in his previous 21 games.
Couturier said he hasn't changed anything about his game, saying only that things are going his way more now than they were previously.
"I think the bounces are going my way now," he said. "I'm just trying to put pucks more at the net and shoot more. Things are going my way now. I've just got to keep going and keep putting pucks at net."Danny Briere
, Couturier's roommate, said he never saw a dip in his teammate's play when the offense wasn't there.
"What impresses me a lot with his play is it seems like he's the same going into every game," Briere told NHL.com. "Sometimes he'll get the bounces, sometimes he's not. He didn't get as many points there for a little bit, but he was just playing just as well. He wasn't hurting us, he wasn't making mistakes. He's so low maintenance at this point already in his career, the coach barely has anything (bad) to say when he comes off the ice. … Lately he's getting the bounces, he's getting good opportunities to score and that's the way it goes. Sometimes you get the bounces, sometimes you don't, (but) he's probably been one of our most consistent players all year. And that's a lot when you're an 18-year-old. That's impressive."
That impressive play earned Couturier a promotion from his usual spot, centering the fourth line, to a spot on the third line Saturday in Nashville, with Wayne Simmonds
and Matt Read
. He also saw time on the wing on a line with Briere late in the game when the Flyers were pushing for a goal.
And with James van Riemsdyk
out indefinitely with a concussion, there could be further opportunities for Couturier to get more ice time, starting as soon Tuesday when the Flyers host the Minnesota Wild.
"I don't know how it's going to play out (Tuesday)," Laviolette said. "We're happy with Sean and the role that he's in, the minutes that he gets. We continue to ask him to play well like he's doing, and right now we're good with where he's at."
One of the things that could keep him at the same 12:29 he's been averaging this season is Laviolette's desire to keep Couturier at his natural center position, and with Claude Giroux
and Briere locked into the top two lines, that leaves Couturier and fellow rookie Brayden Schenn
competing for extra ice time in the middle.
"We'd like to keep our centermen in their natural position if we can," Laviolette said. "That's not to say that we won't down the road. Sean has done an excellent job where he sits."
Couturier said he's played on the wing in junior hockey, as well as at the 2011 World Junior Championship with Team Canada, and at 6-foot-3 and 197 pounds, he's certainly big and strong enough to play along the wall -- and willing to play there.
"I've always played center, but whatever I can do to help the team, if it's on wing, on defense, goalie, whatever -- I'll do it," Couturier said.