Sean Couturier becomes model citizen for Flyers' process


The breakout season didn't even feel over yet.

Sean Couturier's arrival had reached a new apex just three days prior when he amazed the Wells Fargo Center with superhuman effort.

But at his end-of-the-season press conference last week, Couturier, only 25 years old, found himself talking about leadership.

Because, well, with production comes leadership.

That's just natural in sports. When a player performs, others tend to look up.

"I try to lead in any way I can. More by example, I should say," Couturier said. "I'm not really the guy who's going to yell or talk often. I try to lead by example. Maybe show the new guys, I should say young guys, how the game should be played. Play it out by example."

From the overhead view, Couturier is an example of much more — a model of what the Flyers are hoping to accomplish and a true representation of Ron Hextall's plan.

While the general manager fights to supplement his team's core, it's really all about the Flyers' younger players taking a "bigger piece of the pie," as Hextall put it.

After six seasons, Couturier's sliver finally turned into a bigger piece.

And he ate plenty.

"I wanted to have a bigger role offensively," Couturier said. "I've scored in juniors. I was drafted as a high pick, offensive guy. I've always been solid defensively. Try to play a solid 200-feet game out there. That doesn't change, but offensively, I wanted to step forward and prove to everyone that I can produce in this league."

With a first-line center role, first-unit power-play time and greater responsibility across the board, Couturier blew past his previous career highs by posting 31 goals, 45 assists and a plus-34 rating. In fact, going back to March 4 of last season, a stretch of 101 games, Couturier's plus-52 mark was best in the NHL.

Not a bad example for the likes of Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, to name a few. Sooner rather than later, the Flyers will need those players to take the eventual (or next) jump.

"There are a lot of good players on this roster and, I don't care, I'm done talking about young or old — I think we've got a lot of good players on this roster," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "It's not just about two or three guys having to go out and play great. … I think we have enough depth and enough good players that that core is continuing to grow."

Compared to the Flyers' current youth, Couturier's timeline was a bit different. The 2011 first-round pick was a part of the team's early-to-mid-20s nucleus when it came together his draft year. He's still a part of it but uniquely blended with the up-and-coming kids, as well.

"I think we grew as a group this year," Couturier said. "We took some strides. All these young guys, they've got a lot of talent, lot of potential, bright futures. It's definitely exciting to be a part of this group. Hopefully we can have great success for a long time."

Couturier has set the example. He just needed more pie like the rest.

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