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Mark Scheifele and Sean Couturier highlight two different paths to a pro career

Three years after being drafted one selection apart, Mark Scheifele and Sean Couturier's path to the NHL has been anything but similar.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

We want Sean! We want Sean!

Just weeks after the announcement came down that the Atlanta Thrashers were moving north to Winnipeg, fans of the new, still unnamed franchise flooded south to Minneapolis, MN for 2011 NHL Draft. It would be their first chance to cheer the franchise and the boisterous thousands of fans that made the trip did not waste the opportunity. When consensus top three pick Sean Couturier slipped all the way down to Winnipeg's selection at number seven, the aforementioned chant rang out across the Xcel Energy Centre. The building kept ringing when the team name was finally announced to be the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets fans were already starting to earn their reputation as the loudest in hockey.

It was drawn to a swift and sudden halt when the name Mark Scheifele was announced. A pin could be heard dropping. Then a huge shuffle of papers while the thousands of Jets fans tried to find anything they could about that name. The fans recovered after a minute or two and started a "Wel-come Mark!" chant, but the damage had been done. Sean Couturier was drafted with the very next selection by the Philadelphia Flyers and controversy was at foot.

Two seasons and a bit have passed since then and the controversy of Scheifele versus Couturier has not gone away in the slightest. Scheifele and Couturier are contributing in the NHL now with both experiencing different levels of success. Yet they have been developed in completely different manners to date. Both Scheifele and Couturier have made their respective teams out of camp in each of the past three seasons. However, as Jets fans are well aware Scheifele has been sent back to junior twice before cracking the roster for good just this past October, while Couturier is entering his 3rd full season with the Flyers.

This article will look at the comparison between the two players.

Mark Scheifele

#55 / Center / Winnipeg Jets



Mar 15, 1993

2013 - Mark Scheifele 20 1 4 5 -1 2 1 0 0 28 3.6%

Season GP TOI/60 Pts/60 Corsi Rel On-Ice Sht % On-Ice Sv% PDO Pen Take Pen Drawn OZ Strt%
2013-14 20 12.73 0.63 -11.0 3.16 953 984 0.0 2.5 54.4
2012-13 4 10.58 0.00 -6.2 11.11 913 1024 0.0 1.4 37.5
2011-12 7 9.22 0.00 -1.7 3.23 960 992 0.0 1.9 75.0

Sean Couturier

#14 / Center / Philadelphia Flyers



Dec 07, 1992

2013 - Sean Couturier 18 0 4 4 0 6 0 0 0 27 0.0%

Season GP TOI/60 Pts/60 Corsi Rel On-Ice Sht % On-Ice Sv% PDO Pen Take Pen Drawn OZ Strt%
2013 18 13.14 0.91 +1.1 5.26 943 996 0.3 0.9 43.3
2012 46 11.39 1.14 +2.1 7.26 887 960 0.5 0.5 32.1
2011 77 10.77 1.81 -3.4 9.55 938 1034 0.5 0.9 40.3

Looking first at Scheifele, it's clear the role that the Jets are trying to mold him into. Winnipeg wants an offensive second line center. With that goal in mind the Jets twice sent Scheifele back to junior to develop his offensive game and continue to limit his exposure in his first NHL season with a 54.4% offensive zone start time. This has yet to result in the expected results with a mere .63 points per 60 minutes played and a -11.0 Corsi Relative. However, with the really low on-ice shooting percentage of just 3.16%, his line is expected to start showing some better results in the near future. The slow path is the way the Jets are going and he will continue to have to work into more chances.

Couturier meanwhile was thrown into the fire right after the draft. With just 40.3% offensive zone start percentage, Couturier was tossed into a defensive role from the get go. He performed admirably, even showing offensive flashes with a solid 1.81 points per 60 minutes played. All signs were looking up. However the question marks about his eventual offensive upside have managed to come up again as his points per minute continues to slip year by year, even as his icetime increases. Was used in an even more defensive role in his sophomore year though, which might explain some of it. The Corsi relative has managed to climb into the positive in each of the past two seasons though, so he is succeeding hugely in his defensive bottom 6 role. Particularly when you consider the struggles Philadelphia has dealt with he is performing admirably. The question still remains, will Couturier be able to ever step into the spotlight as a scoring line player?

With all the controversy surrounding these two back to back picks, these two approaches makes for an interesting case study. Both are big, playmaking, good skating two way centermen that were prolific scorers in the junior ranks. Both were drafted with hopes to be key scoring lines centres. The two teams have taken the exact opposite approaches to development, with the Jets taking the slow going development in the junior ranks hoping to develop that offense away from the spotlight. The Flyers tossed Couturier into a defensive role with the hopes that offensive side will come around while being useful to the Flyers in a defensive role.

What results can be seen from this? To date little can be determined. It is much too early in the game to make any real decisions on these development paths. Tonight will be a little sneak peak as the two youngsters square off at the MTS Centre.

Let's hope to see some more of this.


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