May 03, 2012
Who's Better? Adam Henrique vs Sean Couturier
One of the interesting match ups in the the New Jersey Devils/Philadelphia Flyers second round playoff match up is that of rookie centers Adam Henrique of the Devils and Sean Couturier of the Flyers
Both are lanky pivots participating in their first Stanley Cup playoffs. Both wear #14. Both had strong rookie campaigns. Both are quickly becoming personal favorites.
That is mostly because both of their games are predicated on a nearly flawless understanding defensive game, a rare trait among players so young. They have both been entrusted by their coaches to play key roles usually reserved for veterans with much more experience and composure. But these two have such an innate comprehension of their responsibilities that they are light years ahead of most young players in that regard.
Henrique is a second year pro who played four full seasons of junior hockey in Windsor. The 22 year old has had a bit more time to hone his craft, including a full season in the AHL. Injuries to Travis Zajac opened up a top line spot for the Brantford born Henrique, and he responded with not only a stellar defensive performance but a 51 point campaign that has seen him nominated for Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year.
Couturier, the 8th overall draft pick in 2011, stepped immediately out of the Quebec league and into the NHL - no easy task for any player but the true superstar. But his great hockey sense was the great equalizer. The Flyers have a wealth of young forwards so Couturier (who was born in Phoenix where his dad Sylvain played minor league hockey at the time) never had the chance to put up great offensive numbers in his rookie season, costing him a shot at the Calder. But he drew rave reviews as the season progressed, earning comparisons to Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Francis.
Players such as Henrique and Couturier have some sort of natural understanding of how to think the game of hockey. Such cerebral players get high marks in my books. While Ryan Nugent Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog appear to be the future superstars of the 2011-12 rookie class, I would be very happy to have either Henrique or Couturier to build my team around.