Mark Scheifele vs Sean Couturier: Year 1 of 20-years of second-guessing

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13: Sean Couturier #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers scores hat trick against Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Penguins 7-5. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

As you may well remember, I was not positive on the Jets picking Mark Scheifele 7th overall ahead of Sean Couturier (see cautionary tale #1, #2, #3 and #4.) Let's see how things shaped up a year forward:

Season GP Pts PPG NHL Proj
Scheifele 2011-12 47 63 1.34 34
Scheifele 2010-11 66 75 1.14 28
Couturier 2010-11 58 96 1.66 42

Scheifele improved somewhat in junior, but it was not a breakout season; in fact, his progression was lower than what we expected. Imagine if Scheifele had played the entire season in Winnipeg this year and had put up 34 points - would we not expect significantly more from him in his second season than 40 points?

On the other hand, Scheifele's Barrie Colts team massively improved its defensive performance this season, reducing shots against by over three per game and improving their record from 15-53 to 40-28 despite scoring just 17 additional goals. So there may be more here than meets the eye in terms of Scheifele's two-way value.

Sean Couturier had an interesting season in similar respects. While his boxcar numbers (27 points in 77 games) might seem a bit disappointing, it's to be expected for a player who jumps from junior directly to a good NHL team (most juniors jump to awful teams and get a ton of ice time). What I think no one expected was how much time Couturier got on the penalty-kill:

TOI/G Rank (F)
5v5 10.77 11
5v4 0.45 10
4v5 2.61 2

Let's compare this to recent first round picks who made an immediately jump to the NHL:

5v5 5v5 5v4 5v4 4v5 4v5
Age 18 Age 19 Age 18 Age 19 Age 18 Age 19
Burmistrov 11.51 13.2 0.3 1.22 1.14 1.77
Landeskog 14.69 2.14 1.34
Duchene 13.62 15.39 2.91 2.66 0.43 0.07
Skinner 12.91 14.47 2.93 3.11 0.03 0.23
Bailey 11.91 12.01 2.88 2.13 0.05 0.53
NH 14.16 2.92 0.04
Kane 12.27 14.07 0.34 2.26 1.15 0.84
Seguin 10.73 14.05 1.35 2.36 0.03 0.03
Stamkos 11.51 13.71 2.66 4.41 0.11 1.35
Tavares 13.39 15.02 3.94 3.29 0.05 0.17
Hall 15.07 14.75 2.54 2.98 0.03 0.04
Average 12.89 14.07 2.26 2.71 0.40 0.56

While Couturier's low 5v5 ice time is not unexpected given Philadelphia's other options, giving an 18-year-old forward two-and-a-half minutes per game on the PK is basically unheard of. While the pre-draft scouting reports ranged from ambivalent to positive about Couturier's defense, nobody even suggested that he had this kind of talent.

So what's the verdict so far? Not much has changed since a year ago. Scheifele looked lost on a team that missed the playoffs by a wide margin, while Couturier has a real role on one of the best teams in the league; scoring a hat trick in the playoffs doesn't hurt his cause either. The Jets may have had great reasons for not picking the consensus best player remaining at the #7 spot, but the person who came up with those reasons has not yet been vindicated.

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