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Couturier hopes to turn heads at WJHC camp and NHL draft

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TSN.ca Staff
8/5/2010 7:25:48 PM
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While 2010's first overall pick Taylor Hall is still weeks away from training camp with the Edmonton Oilers, there's already another name that the hockey world is clamouring about for the 2011 NHL Draft.

There are big expectations this season for Drummondville's Sean Couturier, who could go as high as first overall next June. And one of his challenges will be earning a spot on Team Canada for this winter's World Junior Hockey Championship - something he believes is certainly possible.

"I had a great offseason last year," Couturier told TSN. "I got a lot of experience and I matured from that. And going to the Under 18s (last year) gave me a huge boost of confidence and I carried that for the rest of the season."

Already ranked first on the latest prospect list provided by International Scouting Services, the Voltigeurs forward is one of two undrafted players attending the team's summer evaluation camp in St. John's this week.

And Couturier, a left winger who is still growing into his 6-3, 185-pound frame, has already drawn some comparisons to another former blue-chipper - Jordan Staal.

"I think that is a fair comparison," Hockey Canada's head scout Al Murray told TSN. "Sean and Jordan are both big body guys who can skate well and can both do what a team needs them to do - go out on the third line and be a shutdown guy or being the leading scorer like he did in the Quebec League."

With a solid two-way game on the ice, Couturier - whose father Sylvain played stints in both the NHL and AHL - already brings a solid resume to the table.

Taken second overall by Drummondville in the 2008 QMJHL Draft, he made an immediate impact with his junior club, helping lead the team win their first President's Cup as league champions.

Last season, Couturier's learning curve grew by leaps and bounds, going from nine goals and 31 points in 2008-09 to 41 goals and 96 points in 2009-10 and capturing the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the league's top regular season scorer.

It's the lowest point total ever tallied for the QMJHL honour, but what makes it impressive is the fact that he did it while also shutting down the opposition's best players night in and night out.

And that ability to play any role compounds his chances of making Team Canada this Christmas.

"Those (types of) players can slip into offensive or defensive roles," said Murray. "They have a willingness to do it. They put their egos aside and do whatever's best for the team."
 
If he makes the World Junior squad in December, Couturier will join a special group of forwards who made their mark at the tournament before even being drafted. Eric Lindros, Jason Spezza, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Toews were all impact players in the Under-20 event as yet-to-be drafted names.

"He's a great player," said fellow Team Canada hopeful Brandon Gormley. "His draft year isn't until next year, but he's got a bright future ahead of him and he's tough to play against."

With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels and Swedish skaters Adam Larsson and Victor Rask also gunning for the top spot in the draft next June, a successful stint at the World Juniors in Buffalo could go a long way in improving Couturier's stock and solidifying the title of first overall pick.

"It would be fun for sure," said Couturier. "But it's early still and there's another season to go. We'll see what happens at the end."

- Written with files from TSN's Ryan Rishaug.

Sean Couturier (Photo: Perfoto - Ghyslain Bergeron)

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(Photo: Perfoto - Ghyslain Bergeron)
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