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Talking Hockey with Philadelphia Flyers Rookie Sean Couturier: Fan Interview
Due to an offseason roster remix, general manager Paul Holmgren traded high-scoring winger Jeff Carter last June to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In return he received winger Jakub Voracek, as well as the team's first and third round selections in last summer's amateur draft. The Flyers then subsequently selected Couturier with the first round pick (eighth overall) and Nick Cousins with the third round pick.
The 19-year-old's hockey skills were initially evident to anyone who saw him last September in training camp. Beyond physical talent, he also possessed a seemingly natural hockey sense that allowed him to instantly compete with everyone.
At the time, I wondered if he would be able to make an impression on head coach Peter Laviolette and his staff that would allow him to secure a roster spot. Those sharp hockey men went on to make Couturier a part of their opening night plans for well-earned reasons.
Just before the League's second season was set to begin, the six foot, three inch, 197 pound center spoke about the beginning of his professional career.
"It feels great. Since day 1 at training camp, I didn't really know what to expect coming in. But, with the help of veterans and the guys around here, they made it easier to adapt myself to the League," Couturier said.
Working for it
Every young person in any line of work benefits by observing and learning from long-time employees. That old-fashioned idea seems to have been lost on those in the modern world, as many young 'guns' are motivated by an emotional logic. They falsely believe that various forms of entitlements give them a right to immediately jump to the front of whatever line they are in.
Such is not the case for this Phoenix, Ariz. native, who has fused his physical skill with a respect for the game. As a result, he has exceeded expectations within the greatest hockey platform.
Couturier was quick to credit his teammates for the success that he has enjoyed.
"It's not really one-on-one talking, or anything like that. It's just being around those guys that have been here awhile. They know the game.
"Practicing with them every day and just looking at them, you learn and you get better. So, I'm trying to make the most out of it."
Approximately 20 feet across the locker room from Couturier was 40-year-old Jaromir Jagr. The length between the bookends of their careers is as wide as the current point gap between the Flyers (94) and the Blue Jackets (53).
"He's so strong on the puck and has a great hockey sense.
"It's not only on the ice that you see he's a Hall of Famer, it's off the ice too. How hard he works and what good care he takes of himself. All of those things make him one of the best."
Couturier didn't intend to do it, but he had also just detailed the qualities that has enabled his coach to use him in a variety of roles throughout this season. Playing key minutes against other team's top lines and effectively handling two-way opportunities represent major accomplishments.
Love for the game
Laviolette became the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes midway through the 2003-04 season. After the lockout had ended, he led a mixed team of veterans and young players to their 2006 Stanley Cup victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
The same combination of responsive in-game tactical moves and resilient motivational methods allowed him to lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks in his first season as Philadelphia's head coach in 2009-10.
Couturier offered respect for his boss by saying, "He's an intense guy who loves the game. He does a great job preparing us to be ready for the upcoming games."
Couturier is, quite simply, a prodigy. His playing style is somewhat reminiscent of Dave Poulin, who was one of the Flyers greatest two-way forwards.
Jagr met Lord Stanley on two occasions while he was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s. Laviolette had the opportunity to make that same acquaintance six years ago. Couturier will soon have his first chance to be part of a club that will try to win sixteen postseason games and gain hockey's ultimate prize.
If this young man is blessed with good health, it's possible that he could continue to be one of the core members of this team into the next decade.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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