End to End: Does No. 2 pick make Sean Couturier expendable?

End to End: Does No. 2 pick make Sean Couturier expendable?

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall, and Greg Paone.

The question: Does the No. 2 overall pick make Sean Couturier expendable in the trade market?

This is an interesting question because, in Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, the Flyers will be getting another top-six center to build around and eventually take over for Claude Giroux. It also is an interesting question because there appears to be a certain sector of Flyers fans and the media that has soured on Couturier and want to move on from the 24-year-old. Perhaps it’s because Couturier has yet to blossom into an elite scorer at this level. Perhaps people see his draft position and want more points. Whatever the reason is, I don’t get it.

We know a few things about Couturier as an NHL player. He’s an excellent defensive pivot who plays tough minutes against opponents’ top players. (He does that extremely well too.) He scores plenty at even strength — his 14 even-strength goals and 31 points were second only to Jakub Voracek last season, and that’s something the Flyers need. His possession numbers have increased each year that he has been an NHL player. Last season, of players who played 20 or more games, only Jordan Weal (55.9) had a higher Corsi For percentage than Couturier’s 54.5. During the final month-plus of the regular season, Couturier led the NHL with a plus-18 rating, and from March 4 to April 9, he recorded the 17 even-strength points, which was fourth-most in the NHL during that span. He’s a piece to build around.

Sure, there are frustrating parts of Couturier’s game. He’s not good on the power play. That much we can say. The Flyers have given him ample opportunity the past two seasons to prove he can produce on the man advantage and he simply hasn’t been able to prove it. It’s frustrating, sure, but it’s not a reason to turn on Couturier. He’s more than capable of producing at even strength. He dealt with some injuries last season and claimed he wasn’t fully healthy when he returned. Let’s remember, he was solid before the injuries hit, too.

Trading for Valtteri Filppula helped take some pressure off Couturier, and having a full season of Filppula will help too. Adding either Patrick or Hischier to the fold will also help. There aren’t many untouchables on the Flyers’ roster — Ivan Provorov is the only definite — but for me, Couturier is a player I would continue to build around. The overall package there is too valuable to a team, and if he’s, at worst, a third-line center, then that’s OK.

I don’t think landing the No. 2 pick makes Couturier any more available than he was before. But that’s also because I don’t think he is a guy the Flyers should want to trade anyway.

Drafting a high-caliber center at No. 2 would certainly give Hextall greater flexibility and incentive to trade Couturier.
The Flyers are about to add to their cupboard, so trying to sell Couturier high wouldn't be a terrible idea because he is only 24 years old with tangibles teams covet.
Some may think Couturier is what he is after seeing him for six seasons. But I feel like the Flyers believe there's bigger potential for him to reach and Hextall isn't ready to throw that away just because they've landed a prominent draft slot and will add a prospect that plays Couturier's position.
And, heck, maybe Couturier would thrive as a bottom-six center. That would be true depth and secondary scoring the Flyers need. We all saw what Couturier did at the end of the regular season once he felt healthy and some pressure was lifted by the acquisition of Filppula.
Maybe Hextall will be more open to the thought of trading Couturier, but the still-maturing center is locked up by the Flyers through 2021-22 and I don't see that changing. 

I find this to be a very intriguing, thought-provoking question and possibility. It's a question that makes me (and hopefully you guys, too) think. And that's a good thing.

Let's recall the Flyers went into this season with Couturier pegged as their No. 2 center behind Giroux. Things didn't go as smoothly as planned and Ron Hextall felt the need to go out and get Filppula from Tampa at the trade deadline and slide the veteran into that No. 2 center slot.

After that trade, Couturier slid down to the third line and played extremely well down the stretch. But then the Flyers landed the No. 2 pick, which will net them a potential stalwart center.

I do think the No. 2 pick makes Couturier more available than he was before the ping-pong balls were drawn last Saturday night in Toronto. How could he not be with a young center on the way and how pleased the Flyers were with Filppula?

But this pick also means a lot of different things are on the table now. It's a game-changer.

Also, remember Filppula is a free agent after this coming season and Couturier and Giroux are locked up for the long haul.

Teams like to build these days with strength down the middle at center. A triumvirate of Giroux-Patrick/Hischier-Couturier down the middle of the lineup would be the envy of a lot of teams around the NHL.

So do I think Couturier is more available now? Yes, probably so. Do I think he will get moved prior to when the new season starts in October? No, I believe he'll be here. He's still just 24 years old and the Flyers shouldn't be ready to move on just yet. He brings a two-way dynamic that can be invaluable. Consistency, especially at the offensive end, is the missing ingredient.

I'm very interested to see how he fits into a lineup with a new, young center in the mix. If it's as a third-line center, there's nothing wrong with that.

Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

AP Images

Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz had his third career hat trick to help the St. Louis Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Schwartz has four goals and six assists this season and has at least one point in six of the Blues' first seven games. It was his 51st career multi-point game and fourth this season.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, Kyle Brodziak also scored, and Jake Allen made 22 saves. The Blues snapped a two-game losing streak

Duncan Keith and Ryan Hartman had late goals for Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 28 saves (see full recap).

Maple Leafs ride big 1st period to win
TORONTO -- Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves in his season debut and the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four times in the first period in a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Starting in place of Frederik Andersen, McElhinney stopped 14 shots in the third period to hold off the Red Wings.

Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander scored to help Toronto improve to an NHL-best 6-1-0. The Maple Leafs were coming off a 2-0 victory at Washington on Tuesday night.

Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Ericsson scored for the Red Wings, and Nick Jensen had three assists.

Jimmy Howard gave up three goals on four shots before getting yanked in favor of Petr Mrazek late in the first period (see full recap).

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

USA Today Images

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

For the first time in his nine-year career, Michal Neuvirth knows when he gets home at night after a game, there will be someone waiting for him with a smile.

Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to Neuvirth, or especially to his one-month-old daughter, Emily Gudasová Carolina.

“When you come home, there’s a baby waiting and it's such an amazing feeling that someone is waiting for you at home,” Neuvirth said after Tuesday's 5-1 win over Florida. “Last year, I was mostly here by myself, so I definitely like it better having a family with me now.”

Family now consists of his newborn daughter, his fiancee Karolína Gudasová and uncle Radko Gudas, Gudasová’s older brother and Neuvirth’s Flyers teammate.

To those of us on the outside, the responsibility of fatherhood seemingly has altered Neuvirth’s disposition. He smiles more, cracks a few jokes and elaborates just a little more with his answers to the media. Perhaps, he can tolerate us because there’s a deeper purpose and a sense of providing that comes with fatherhood.  

“It’s an amazing feeling being a dad,” Neuvirth said. “For me, I just have another motivation to play for my family now.”

Of course, it also helps I’ve yet to see Neuvirth yawn or show up to practice with bags under his eyes. He has escaped any late-night drama with an eight-day road trip to start the season, and for now, he apparently has a rare lifetime pass for any early morning feedings.  

“I have an amazing fiancee. She takes care of her (Emily) as much as she needs to,” Neuvirth said. “I usually put her to bed at 10-10:30. During the night, Karolina goes and feeds her in the living room, and I’m a deep sleeper, so she doesn’t wake me up.”

As Gudasová has kept an eye on the cradle, Neuvirth has secured the crease. He’s allowed three goals in his two starts this season with a .956 save percentage, which has initiated the debate for more playing time.

Interestingly, adapting to a new addition is something Neuvirth has also discussed with teammate and fellow netminder, Brian Elliott, who went through a similar set of circumstances with his son, Owen, last season in Calgary. Elliott called that first month with the Flames “a huge adjustment” and his October numbers reflected that.

Six games into the season, Neuvirth apparently has it all figured out. 

Of course, a good night’s sleep has a way of bringing clarity to the situation.