Is Flyers’ Sean Couturier still a top-15 center in the NHL?

For Sean Couturier, winning the Frank J. Selke trophy was the culmination of nine years of consistency. Finally securing the award at the end of the 2019-2020 season ignited a celebration throughout the Philadelphia Flyers fanbase. It meant that the Flyers had the best defensive forward in all of the NHL. Forwards who possess a two-hundred-foot game along with offensive proficiency rule the roost. When the NHL Network released its top-twenty center’s list, Couturier placed eighteenth.

My disagreements with the NHL Network and their rankings are well documented throughout the 2020 offseason. This time around, the NHL Network was a little fairer with their judgment of Sean Couturier. Being the eighteenth ranked center puts Couturier among elite company. After further review of the players on the list and the 2019-2020 season, he deserves a little more credit than his eighteenth ranking. The reigning Frank J. Selke Trophy winner is a top-fifteen overall center.

A Selke Season for Sean Couturier

Sean Couturier groomed his best season since 2017-2018. In 69 games due to the pandemic shortened NHL season, he tallied 59 points, a plus-minus of 21, and won nearly 60% of his total faceoffs. Those numbers combined with a +4 turnover ratio secured Couturier the Frank J. Selke Trophy. Looking back to that 2017-2018 season, there is room for debate that Couturier should be a two-time Selke Trophy winner. Instead, Anze Kopitar won it in 2017-2018.

In all but seventeen games, Sean Couturier either broke even in the plus-minus category or earned a positive rating. In the faceoff circle, Couturier was even more efficient. In all but fourteen games, Couturier won 50% or greater of his draws.

Earning the Frank J. Selke trophy means a forward excels at the defensive aspects of hockey. Sean Couturier did but left a bit to be desired among top centers offensively.

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Among all forwards, Couturier placed eighth in plus-minus and was the best in the faceoff circle (800 minimum attempts.) His ranking could have improved if the NHL season weren’t cut short.

A Top-15 Center

After a 2019-2020 campaign where the Philadelphia Flyers lost in seven games to the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Sean Couturier performed well enough to improve on the NHL Network’s eighteenth ranking. Of the top-twenty centers on that list, Couturier’s ranking improved into the top-fifteen. More precisely, I have Couturier as the fourteenth best center after revising and recalculating the players featured.

Overall, the statistics that make a complete center are points, plus-minus, special teams scoring, and faceoff win percentage. Sean Couturier measures equal to or better than Mathew Barzal, Ryan O’Reilly, John Tavares, Aleksander Barkov, Sidney Crosby, and Nathan MacKinnon when considering those metrics. Of those players, Couturier only outscored Crosby. MacKinnon scored 93 points in 2019-2020, but Couturier was the more complete center. If these rankings were based strictly on center scoring, there would be no argument.

If Sean Couturier scored 66 points instead of 59, the discussion would move from top-fifteen to top-ten. Seven offensive points would put him in the conversation of having a better 2019-2020 season than Anze Kopitar, Steven Stamkos, Elias Pettersson, Sebastian Aho, and Brayden Point. A glaring space for improvement for Couturier would be special teams scoring. As the reigning Frank J. Selke award winner, featuring him on the second unit behind Kevin Hayes could provide a boost to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Upcoming, in 2020-2021, the NHL will be participating in another abbreviated regular season. Sean Couturier will defend his Frank J. Selke crown. If he improves on his offensive presence, look for Couturier to improve his stock.

photo credit: Alex Mcintyre

The post Is Flyers’ Sean Couturier still a top-15 center in the NHL? appeared first on PHILLY SPORTS NETWORK.

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