Center Sean Couturier on Thursday night became the first Flyers player since Dave Poulin in the 1986-87 season to win the Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward.
Couturier, 27, won the award in a field that included Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, a four-time winner who was nominated for a record ninth time, and St. Louis' Ryan O’Reilly, who was last year’s winner.
“Without my teammates, I wouldn’t be here, for sure,” Couturier said after receiving the award.
Couturier had 117 first-place selections and 1,424 voting points to easily outdistance the second-place finisher, Bergeron (21 first-place votes, 884 points). O’Reilly had 11 first-place votes and 816 points.
It took Couturier "a few years in the league to find the offensive part of his game, but he’s a guy that plays the right way defensively,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "He understands the game, doesn’t cheat, wins battles, wins faceoffs, very good on the forecheck, very good in his own zone, very good penalty killer and very good on the power play.
“There’s flashier players than Sean Couturier, [but] in terms of just getting the job done, matching up against top players and producing in the clutch, he’s a remarkable player for us,” Fletcher said, adding that the veteran was someone who is “really driving the bus for this team right now.”
It was the first time Couturier won the award, voted upon by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. He finished second to Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar in 2017-18.
When he was nominated in July, Couturier said it “reflects on the year the team had as well.” He also said Bergeron was his role model when the Flyers center broke into the league as a 19-year-old in 2011-12.
Couturier, drafted in the first round (eighth overall) by the Flyers in 2011, had 59 points in 69 games and a plus-21 rating this season. He led the NHL by winning 59.6% of his faceoffs, and he defended against the opponents' top players. The Selke has evolved into an award that also takes offense into consideration.
His teammates thrived whenever put on his line, causing coach Alain Vigneault to call him “Dr. Coots” because of the way he cured someone who was ailing on offense.
Besides Poulin, Bobby Clarke (1982-83) was the only other Flyer to win the Selke. Poulin was 29 when he won it, Clarke was 33.