Couturier hard to find

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

TORONTO - Not that there’s ever a good time to come down with a prolonged case of mono, but getting knocked on your butt in the summer prior to your draft year would classify as about the worst.

The illness may or may not have slowed down Drummondville Voltigeurs star Sean Couturier, but the captain of Team Cherry at Wednesday night’s top prospects game has seen his draft status fluctuate ever since.

On the one hand, he’s scored 28 points in his past 11 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, to make sure NHL scouts are paying attention.

On the other, given he was invisible for large portions of Wednesday’s game, you have to wonder how far he might drop on the list of the dozens of pro personnel scattered throughout the Air Canada Centre.

“I was just okay,” said Couturier, the only draft eligible player to suit up for Canada at the recent world junior championship. “I tried to keep my game simple but obviously things didn’t work out well for us.”

Depending on the list and the timing, Couturier has been slotted anywhere from No. 1 to No. 4 among North American skaters, meaning in all likelihood he will go to a team with a lottery pick. He claims he isn’t paying attention, but as the draft inches closer, it will be tough not to.

“At this point, they are only lists and there’s lots of hockey left to be played,” Couturier said.

The good news is most scouts say an off-night in an all-star game like this generally doesn’t hurt a player’s stock dramatically. But not making an impact in a game surrounded by most of the top of your class can’t help, either.

Couturier — who is listed at 6-foot-4, 194 pounds (though that would be soaking wet) — says he didn’t lose any weight when he was ill. He certainly didn’t add any beef though, so the question for scouts is whether he can make up for it when put into a pro-style fitness program.

Game On

Team Cherry blueliner Ryan Murphy comes as advertised. If the Kitchener Rangers prospect can carry his puck-moving ability on to the pros, whoever gets him will have a keeper ... He may not have had the training camp the coaching staff wanted but, based on the way he’s looking now, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would have been a big help for Team Canada at the world juniors ... It wasn’t anything like Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin, the two captains in last year’s game, but Nugent-Hopkins easily had a much greater impact than Couturier. “The comparisons don’t bother me,” Couturier said. “We’re two different types of players ... With the sparse crowd at the ACC, the last three rows of the reds served as scout central, with dozens of GMs and talent evaluators on hand. For the players, it must have been like performing in front of figure-skating judges ... The building may have lacked buzz, but that didn’t stop prospects from soaking up the experience. Team Orr players, hunkered down in the Leafs dressing room, were awestruck and couldn’t take enough pictures of their surroundings.

Dogs have their Day

The Saint John’s Sea Dogs are the top-ranked team in the CHL, but playing on the East coast, and in the Q, they tend to get less attention. That might change some now after three of them — Zack Phillips, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nathan Beaulieu all scored for Team Orr. “Hopefully, we showed the scouts that there are a lot of good players out there,” said Phillips, who had a goal and two assists. “We don’t get as much exposure, but when we do, we make the best of it.” ... Obviously, the Dogs hope to return to the area for the Memorial Cup in May ... Huberdeau, by the way, was the fourth-ranked North American skater entering in the most recent Central Scouting rankings.

Cherry Picking

It was a rough coaching night for Cherry, whose team ended on the wrong end of a 7-1 blowout, but there’s no doubt as to the extent of Grapes’ influence on the game, which he coached in for the 14th time. The juniors love Cherry and he adds cache to the event ... Given that the audience was made up of teenagers, who knows how much will rub off, but Grapes had a strong rant/message following the morning skate. Cherry said the issue of head shots and concussions stems from the fact that “the respect is not there, and it starts when they are in bantam.” ... As for the hit from Washington’s David Steckel in the Winter Classic that likely led to Sidney Crosby’s concussion, Cherry said: “The kid meant to him. He saw him. He knew he hit him” ... Defenceman Francois Beauchemin (1998) is one of five current Leafs to play in the top prospects game. Nazem Kadri (2009) was the most recent.

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