Flyers teammates and fans have clamored for league-wide recognition to be bestowed upon Sean Couturier.
They got their long-standing wish Thursday night.
Couturier, the Flyers’ 27-year-old alpha dog down the middle, won the Frank J. Selke Trophy, an award that is given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game and is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
The do-it-all center, who was a finalist in 2017-18, impressively beat out the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron and the Blues’ Ryan O’Reilly for the 2019-20 honor, his first time ever winning the Selke. Couturier’s victory is doubly impressive considering the margin in first-place votes as well as the fact that the 35-year-old Bergeron has won the award four times and was a finalist for a record ninth straight season, while O’Reilly was the reigning winner.
“I remember at the beginning of the season, someone asked me how he wasn’t in the top-20 centers in the league I think,” Kevin Hayes said in July. “Whoever made those choices needs to figure it out. This guy’s unbelievable, he’s one of the best players I’ve played with. You see him after games, he’s barely sweating. He just knows the game — he knows where to be, he knows how to play, he knows how to defend. That’s what you want in your first-line center; he’s elite. He got recognized for it once and I think this year, he should run away with it.”
Couturier did as you can see in the voting below:
Couturier is now the third Flyer to ever take home the honor, joining Bob Clarke (1982-83) and Dave Poulin (1986-87).
Among NHL centers during the 2019-20 season, Couturier ranked first in faceoff win percentage (59.6 — minimum of 100 taken), tied for fifth in plus-minus (plus-21) and secondary assists (22), 13th in even-strength points (46), 15th in shots (185), 17th in time on ice per game (19:50), tied for 18th in assists (37), tied for 22nd in goals (22) and tied for 30th in shorthanded minutes (140:29), all while constantly drawing the opposition’s toughest assignment.
With patience, development, bigger roles and a quiet inner drive, the 2011 first-round draft pick blossomed into a complete player trusted in all situations. He entered the league as a 19-year-old rookie and didn’t have 40-plus points in a season until his seventh NHL campaign. Among NHL centers since that breakout 2017-18 season, Couturier ranks fourth in even strength points (166), fifth in plus-minus (plus-57), sixth in time on ice per game (21:15), tied for sixth in faceoff percentage (56.5), seventh in shorthanded minutes (480:33), 16th in goals (86) and 16th in assists (125).
“He’s grown into a real solid two-way centerman. I don’t want to say ‘Bergeron type,’ I think Bergeron is obviously the role model in the league, but I think Coots is closing in on how good Bergeron is,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said in early December. “I think because he might not be as flashy or look as spectacular as some of the other guys, maybe people don’t notice him as much. But I can tell you, the people in this room, the people that play with him every day, they notice him.”
When Couturier was a rookie, Bergeron was 26 and won his first Selke.
“Ever since I’ve come up in the league, guys like Bergeron, [Anze] Kopitar, [Jonathan] Toews, Jordan Staal, those were all guys that were really tough to play against, really reliable defensively and also offensively,” Couturier said Thursday night in a video interview. “Those are kind of the guys I tried to model my game after. It’s one thing to produce offensively, but if you want to be out on the ice when you’re up a goal late in the game, you’ve got to learn to be responsible defensively and it’s always something I tried to take pride in. Obviously over the last few years, I’ve kind of taken my offensive side of the game to another level. Honestly, just to be mentioned and nominated with those guys this year and in the past, it’s an honor, a great honor.”