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Couturier Not Bothered By Skipping World Juniors

11 Dec

WELLS FARGO CENTER — Forty-two young Canadians are currently on the roster for the IIHF World Junior Championship in late December. Two are current NHL’ers. Neither is named Sean Couturier, but the 19-year-old rookie is just fine with that.

In his eyes, he got to represent his country last year. Now he’s moved on to bigger and better things in the NHL.

“I’m really happy to be here,” said Couturier. “The Winter Classic is at the same time, so that’s going to be a great experience. Both are great games, but it’s good to be here.”

In last year’s World Junior Championship, Canada lost in the Gold Medal game to Russia, 5-3. On the way there, Couturier had two goals and one assist in seven games in the tournament. Fast forward a year and not only did Couturier get drafted in the top 10, but made the Flyers’ roster and has such a key role that the team won’t part with him, not even for just a tournament.

“He’s an integral part of our team,” said Peter Laviolette. “I don’t know why we would loan him anywhere. It’s different for a player that’s in or out of the lineup, but Sean’s done a terrific job, a real nice job for us. He’s talented in many ways. It would be tough to fork over a guy like that.”

Couturier hasn’t had a point in 15 games for the Flyers, but he plays on mostly the fourth line and the penalty kill, two roles that don’t really require much in terms of scoring. That’s not to say he isn’t capable. Laviolette knows he can count on his rookie centerman. When Claude Giroux left Saturday’s contest, Couturier helped fill in on his line with Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr.

“I thought that he did a really nice job in the third period,” said Laviolette. “We double shifted him between that line and his line; you know young kid, lots of energy. He played extremely well, and I think that’s a real positive for our team.”

It’s the coach’s confidence in him that helps the 19-year-old in thinking that staying in the NHL is the right decision. General manager Paul Holmgren didn’t even approach Couturier to see if he wanted to play in the tournament. With all the injuries, the Flyers literally can’t afford to be without Couturier, but they probably wouldn’t want him to leave anyway.

“They didn’t really talk to me at all,” said Couturier. “It means that they care about me here. It’s just fun to be here.”

Not only is it fun, but it’s more challenging for Couturier who wasn’t used to the heavy dosage of games every week playing for the Drummondville Voltigeurs

“The schedule is lot busier than juniors, 82 [NHL] games … you gotta be ready to go every day,” said Couturier. “We played 68 games [in Juniors], but we only played on weekends.

Last year, in 58 games, he had 36 goals and 60 assists. It was his third season in the QMJHL and he had a lot of fun, the World Junior Championship included. Aside from a few superlatives in the NHL, playing for his country — Couturier moved north of the border from Phoenix only a couple months after he was born — has been the highlight of his hockey career.

“For sure,” said Couturier. “It was a great experience last year playing against the best in the world in my age group. It was a lot of fun.”

These days, the competition is older and in most cases far more experienced than he is. And regardless of his point total, he’s doing just fine.