Couturier getting it done defensively

Devils forward Mattias Tedenby and Flyers forward Sean Couturier fight for a loose puck at the...

Devils forward Mattias Tedenby and Flyers forward Sean Couturier fight for a loose puck at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Oct. 1, 2011. (CHRISTOPHER PASATIERI/Getty Images/AFP)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:31 PM ET

Sean Couturier will be moving in with veteran Philadelphia Flyers teammate Daniel Briere on the weekend, taking over the digs once occupied by Flyers forward Claude Giroux.

That would certainly be an indication the 18-year Couturier will be one of the graduates of the 2011 draft class to stick around past the nine-game mark (after which this season would count as a year off their entry-level contracts).

Well, that and the fact Couturier, despite his youth, is second in the league in short-handed ice time among forwards (four minutes and 50 seconds a game), behind only teammate Maxime Talbot (6:25) going into Tuesday's game against the Ottawa Senators.

Or that in the Flyers' opener against the Bruins in Beantown, Couturier was on the ice with the Flyers protecting a one-goal lead and Boston goaltender Tim Thomas on the bench for an extra attacker in the last minute. He was on the ice in the same situation the other night when the Flyers scored a one-goal win over the Vancouver Canucks.

After the game against the Bruins, Couturier's first in the NHL, I asked Flyers coach Peter Laviolette if putting Couturier out there was a reward for a solid first game.

"No," said Laviolette, "that's his job."

It's not often a youngster like Couturier -- he won't be 19 until Dec. 7 -- earns his place in the NHL based on his penalty killing and defensive game, but that's what he's doing. Not bad for a kid who was the first 17-year-old to win the Quebec league scoring title since Sidney Crosby. Kids are top picks because they are top-end offensive talents, not shut-down types.

Filling in the blanks when it comes to the defensive game usually comes later.

Couturier is doing it the other way around.

He's 6-foot-4 with a good reach and is already earning a reputation for having one of the best sticks in the league.

"You can't pass through talent," was the way one coach put it Tuesday when asked why some players are so good defensively with their stick positioning.

"One of the best sticks that I've seen," said Briere. "He has the reach and the size to compete and play against anybody in the league. That's very impressive for an 18-year-old.

"They're not afraid to put him out there because he's very conscious of his defensive game. He's not going to hurt you. That's why he's getting so much ice time."

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he hasn't been surprised how well Couturier has adapted to the NHL.

"You look at his numbers in the Quebec league and what was he, plus-150 in the last three years? Sean's a big guy and I think he's got a good stick, but it's his hockey sense," said Holmgren in explaining what makes Couturier so solid defensively.

Put all that with the fact Couturier has a relatively cap-friendly salary of $1.375 million for a team right against it and it's a good package.

Briere said it was an easy decision to have Couturier move in with him and his three sons, aged 10, 12 and 13.

"I had the room (and) for an 18-year-old, it's not easy living on your own. I have three boys who are almost his age. I know my boys are excited. There might be a lot of video game contests. He's a good example for my kids. There's a lot of positives."

How's the rent work?

"Like Claude, I start low and when he starts making the big bucks, I'll charge him more. That's why Claude moved out," said Briere. "Too pricey for him."

Giroux said he shouldn't expect any miracles in the kitchen from Briere. He said neither of them did any cooking.

"Maybe a grilled cheese here and there," said Giroux, "but that's pretty much it."

So, right now it looks like Couturier will be under Briere's roof and in the Flyers' lineup for a while.

SUPER SIX PICKS

And then there were six...

Here are the six first-round draft picks from the 2011 draft still with their NHL teams.

Pick Player Position Team Points Ice Time/Game

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins C Edmonton Oilers 5 17:11

2. Gabriel Landeskog LW Colorado Avalanche 3 16:39

4. Adam Larsson D New Jersey Devils 0 24:14

6. Mika Zibanejad C Ottawa Senators 1 12:15

7. Mark Scheifele C Winnipeg Jets 0 11:39

8. Sean Couturier C Philadelphia Flyers 1 15:00

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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