Panthers 2011 NHL Draft Watch: Sean Couturier

With the NHL Draft quickly approaching, and Florida likely to pick high in the 2011 Draft, we're going to take a more in-depth look at the top 7 players in this year's draft. Read on!

Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

The 2011 winner of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Michael Bossy Trophy, which is awarded to the top professional prospect? Sean Couturier. The 2011 winner of the Michel Briere Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the QMJHL? Sean Couturier. The QMJHL’s 1st team all-star center? Sean Couturier.

So why isn’t Couturier the top ranked ISS prospect coming into the 2011 NHL Entry Draft?

At 6’3" and around 195 pounds, Couturier is a big centerman with great playmaking abilities and a proven scoring touch. He was able to rack up 96 points in 58 games for the Drummondville Voltigeurs this past season, which tied him for first on the team. He is a towering presence on the ice already, and with several more years to fill out, he could be a solid two-way center in the NHL. He has an unusual skating stride, something NHL scouts have taken notice to, but many feel out of all the prospects in this year’s draft, Couturier has the most potential to make a quick transition to the NHL due to his skill set and his size.

Of course, with all of the praise comes a fair amount of criticism. There are many scouts who feel Couturier’s hockey IQ is less than that of some of the other top prospects, such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Jonathan Huberdeau. Many pro scouts believe this will greatly hinder his ability to transition into a first or second-line centerman’s role in the NHL. He is no doubt a very physically gifted player, but many GM’s will likely shy away from Couturier if they feel he will have trouble adapting to an NHL system and the speed of the game at that level.

Regardless of the scuttlebutt, Panthers GM Dale Tallon seems to want to build around big, fast players with enough skill to provide solid scoring depth, and Couturier fits that bill. Whether or not Tallon and assistant GM Mike Santos want to take a chance on a player so frequently knocked by other scouting organizations remains to be seen, but you can be sure Tallon and Santos are giving Couturier a lot of consideration, as he is currently projected to be top-seven pick in the draft and will likely be available when Florida is on the board with their first pick.

Sean Couturier: NHL Top Prospects Profile

Sean Couturier Highlight Reel (with dramatic soundtrack!)