Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Sean Couturier is behind Gabriel Landeskog in NHL Central Scouting's ranking of North American skaters, which is worth as much as you wish it to be worth.

The scouting bureau's E.J. McGuire did toss out one factor with projecting Couturier, the Drummondville Voltigeurs centre who had a decent world junior tournament with Team Canada. As Sean Fitz-Gerald at the National Post related, illness during the summer kept Couturier from adding a few pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame:

" 'He's still a little lean,' McGuire said of Couturier. 'He was predicted to be this monster power forward, of a Lindros ilk, and he isn't … yet. But, if in a year or two he is, God bless the team that drafts him, whether it is No. 1, 2, 3 or 6.'

" ... Couturier missed an earlier date with NHL scouts last summer, as he battled a bout of mononucleosis.

" 'Mononucleosis is one of those things that the expert medical scouts say it takes a full year to get back from that,' McGuire said. 'Well, if he falls all the way to No. 6, and somebody grabs him and he does recover more fully from his draft year mononucleosis — I mean, they may have the best player in the draft at No. 6.' " (Posted Sports)

It seems worth highlighting, in case there is any perception Couturier is anywhere close what he will be as a fully grown pro. The mono angle, so to speak, likely didn't get a lot of play since it fell in the off-season. (Last season's No. 3 overall pick, the Florida Panthers' Erik Gudbranson, missed games to mononucleosis, but was no worse for wear draft-wise.)

This all ties in with the scepticism about Landeskog being top dog. The Kitchener Rangers captain, as alluded to Monday, can be dropped on to the roster of any random mediocre NHL team for next season. Adam Larsson is the only other safe bet to make an immediate leap. Does being a serviceable pro make someone a No. 1, 2 or 3 pick? Not necessarily; teams want to hit a home run in those spots, rather than merely double off the outfield wall.

Couturier still fits that mould of being a safe, lower-risk choice. But he might have more surface that he has yet to scratch than widely perceived. That said, that last sentence probably applies better to Larsson or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, depending on a particular team's need.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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