In my opinion, one of the reasons why Vincent Lecavalier was never a proper fit with the Philadelphia Flyers was the fact that not only did they not have the depth for their fourth line to have skaters who can shoot the puck to better complement him, but also that they were set on their other lines at center with Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, who started out filling a checking role but was always seen as their eventual second-line center, a fact that GM Ron Hextall acknowledged when he signed him long-term last summer.
With 6 points in his last 5 games, including a goal and an assist earlier this afternoon as the Flyers blanked the New York Islanders 4-0, and with 20 points in 34 games so far, Couturier's now taking his rightful place on the team's depth chart. His +8 differential on a playoff bubble team is also impressive, and it stands 70th in the league - and first on Philadelphia.
Others selected after the sixth pick of the 2011 draft are also just now making their mark or are on the verge of doing so, such as Dougie Hamilton (9th), Jonas Brodin (10th), Ryan Murphy (12th), Sven Baertschi (13th), Nathan Beaulieu (17th), Oscar Klefbom (19th), Matt Puempel (24th), Phillip Danault (26th), Vladislav Namestnikov (27th), Rickard Rakell (30th), Tomas Jurco (35th), Boone Jenner (37th), Xavier Ouellet (48th), Vincent Trochek (64th), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (96th), Andrew Shaw (139th), Frank Corrado (150th), Anton Forsberg (188th), and Ondrej Palat (208th).
Some are already stars, such as John Gibson (39th), Brandon Saad (43rd), and Johnny Gaudreau (104th).
That's what I like about today's NHL, the systems used are so technically brilliant that any kid who has a feeling for the game can get integrated into it and have at least a statistical chance of making an impact and being successful by following the game plan and then applying their talent when there are openings. Sure, it means last year's Art Ross Trophy winner, Jamie Benn, barely reached the point-per-game mark at 87 points, but it also means third-liners have a legitimate shot at posting 40 themselves. And statistical anomalies will arise even more, such as players with shooting percentages above the 25% mark (Anthony Duclair is at 27.3% right now, Paul Byron is at 25.9%, with 3 of his 7 goals coming on shorthanded breakaways), or 11-game winning streaks (hello, Roberto Luongo-led Florida Panthers).
And so, here is the rising Sean Couturier, wearing the Broad Street Bullies' classic 1970s orange uniform, complete with full-on viking-like beard and long hair, on card #GJ-CO from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
Pavel Datsyuk retires.