Considering he’s a favorite to win the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward, it came as no surprise on Friday when Sean Couturier captured his second straight Bobby Clarke Trophy as the Flyers’ most valuable player for the 2019-20 season.
Normally, the announcement would have come back in early April but the pandemic scuttled that schedule, so there will be no on-ice ceremony, at least none for the foreseeable future.
No matter. Just the honor itself is enough to raise his stock just a bit higher among pro hockey’s best two-way players.
“There have been a lot of great names throughout Flyers history who have won this and it’s a great honor to receive it,” said Couturier.
“Without my teammates it would be hard to accept this. They were a big part of my success this year and I think the overall experience of our lineup that we’ve added and the younger guys getting older every year, it’s been a good mix and has led us to have that success.”
The 27-year-old center, born in Phoenix, Arizona but raised in Canada, finished second on the team in scoring with 59 points (22 goals, 37 assists) in 69 games. His assists and goals totals were second and third respectively on the team.
He also led the team in even-strength points (46), a plus-minus rating of plus-21 and all forwards in average ice-time (19:50). Since Jan. 1, Couturier has averaged a point per game, with 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 29 games which also led the team.
In an interview with the Flyers’ public relations department, Couturier was asked if we’ve seen the best of him yet.
“I think there’s always room for improvement,’’ he said. “I’m not perfect. I do make mistakes sometime. I just want to keep improving every year, every game.
“It (the Clarke Trophy) is a great reward, a tremendous honor but I still think I have a lot of hard work to do to stay a good player in this league, to be a great player. I’m still focusing on doing the right little things to improve in all areas of the game.’’
Couturier was matched with team captain Claude Giroux (left wing) and leading scorer Travis Konecny (right wing) on the Flyers’ top line for much of the second half of the season.
According to Couturier, the Flyers’ turnaround season helped his individual game.
“I think as a team we had a great year,’’ he said. “With new coaches coming in, a lot of experience. They prepare us really well. We made a few additions during the offseason with some experience, like (Kevin) Hayes, (Justin) Braun and (Matt) Niskanen – three veterans that brought some leadership and made our team that much better. I think as a team we bought into the new coach’s gameplan and we had a lot of success.
“So, my success kind of reflects the team’s success.’’
Couturier, a first-round pick (eighth overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, took home the Bobby Clarke Trophy in 2018-19 after he posted 76 points (33 goals, 43 assists) in 80 games with his 33 goals leading the team.
Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Couturier has led all Flyers in goals scored (100), including even-strength goals (80) and game-winning goals (17), as well as even-strength points (197). In 2017-18 he finished runner-up to Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar for the Selke Trophy.