Philadelphia Flyers Prospect Profile: Nick Cousins
By Dustin Leed (@D_LEED)
Sault Ste. Marie general manager Kyle Dubas put it succinctly.
“Nick Cousins is a strong kid who tends to be hated by opposition players and fans.”
And Cousins wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I have fun doing it, it’s the role I accept,” Cousins said prior to the Flyers Developmental Camp in Voorhees this week. “I’ve accepted that role ever since growing up.”
“I’m a small pesky guy that gets in everyone’s face and pisses off the other team. One of those guys you love to have on your team, but hate to play against.”
Nick Cousins participates in a drill at Flyers Developmental Camp in Voorhees, N.J. (Photo: Shelley Szwast)
Considered by many to be the Philadelphia Flyers’ top prospect, Cousins brings a lot more to the table in addition to his agitating style. The 18-year-old led the Greyhounds in scoring with 35 goals and 88 points in 65 games last season. His next closest teammate was Brett Findlay, who finished with 56 points. He was also a plus-1 on a team that allowed 272 goals and had a minus-45 goal differential in 68 games. In addition to his scoring prowess, Cousins, who is a well-known agitator, finished with 88 penalty minutes. He was the only OHL player in the top 10 in scoring with 70 PIMs or more.
“Nick has tremendous hockey sense, first and foremost,” Dubas said. “He is a puck possession type of player; he always has the puck or is around the puck.”
“Most importantly, he is able to make elite plays at high speeds. He also has a great ability to block shots, which a lot of people don’t take note of.”
Cousins sees himself as much more than just an agitator, and compares his game to Bruins forward Brad Marchand.
“I think I can bring offensive upside that not too many players have,” he said. “I see the ice really well and am a smart hockey player. Also, I can bring that agitator role as well – a little pesky forward.”
Entering his second rookie camp after his most successful season for the Soo Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League, Nick Cousins will be the center of attention this week in Voorhees.
“Last year it was my first camp, I didn’t really know what to expect, so I just went in there and tried to learn everything I could, tried to take it all in,” Cousins said. “Going into this year I have a lot more confidence and being comfortable with the other guys [helps].”
Cousins’ improvement from two years ago (the season before he was drafted) is evident in his numbers and has been noticed by Dubas and the rest of the Soo, but Cousins is focused on improving his commitment off the ice.
His points jumped from 68 in his second season with the Soo, to 88 points a year ago.
“Through this season, Nick became more consistent with his production. To me that started with his commitment to defensive zone play and is realized through his huge jump in even strength points,” Dubas said. “Nick was one of the top scorers in the entire league, but especially so at even strength. His all-around play led to that jump and thus his overall jump in points.”
“I think my foot speed has improved and that’s improved my game all around,” Cousins added. “Going into the summer I’ve tried to eat the right stuff and work extra hard in the gym, just trying to get better any way I can.”
Cousins, who played for Team Canada in the 2011 IIHF World U18 Championships which were held in Crimmitschau and Dresden, Germany, considers the tournament a turning point in his young career.
In seven games, Cousins scored four goals, added four assists, and was a plus-3.
“I think confidence is huge in every hockey player and I think ever since the U18’s in Germany I have a lot more confidence in my game and myself,” Cousins said. “It helped me believe in myself that I can play in the National Hockey League someday. Confidence is a big part of my mind.”
The tournament was held in April of ’11 and the NHL draft came two months later. It was the same month that the Flyers acquired a third round draft pick (pick No. 68, Nick Cousins) in a trade that sent Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Cousins was ranked No. 72 in Central Scouting and some questioned his skating, his height, and whether he can carry his style over to the NHL.
“I do think that Nick should have been drafted higher,” Dubas said. “I’d say some teams became too caught up in his height and allowed that to infiltrate their thought process more than the skill and passion which Nick plays with every night.”
“Nick is a deceptively good skater. He is especially fast with the puck – which is an area where most guys slow down, Nick takes off and also makes great plays at high speeds.”
Cousins doesn’t get caught up in the whole draft hoopla.
“I use it as a little motivation, but at the same time it’s just a number, it doesn’t matter where you get drafted,” Cousins said. “I just tried to become the best hockey player I can. It’s just a number — you need to make the most of it.”
Cousins is the type of player that can become a big hit in an NHL lineup. He competes hard and while some people say he goes a little bit too far with his agitating, he’s a Flyers type of player, says Dubas.
“He works hard, has tremendous skill and vision, but also can get under the skin of the opposition. He will be a successful NHL player because he can fill so many different roles on a hockey club,” he added.
“As for former players [of who Nick compares to], you can’t help but think of Ken “The Rat” Linseman, in terms of junior production, stature, skill set, and that ability to get under the skin of the opposition. Currently, the most similar NHL player is likely Brad Marchand.”
Cousins mentioned even going through minor hockey and as a youngster he was disliked by the opposition. Cousins made it a point to say that it was never his team that disliked him, but the other teams.
(Photo: Shelley Szwast)
Moving forward, if Cousins doesn’t make the Flyers he must return to the Soo for his 19-year-old season, but don’t tell Cousins that there isn’t a chance.
“Going into any training camp, you’re not going to go in there and miss an opportunity; you’re going to go in and try to win a roster spot. That’s my goal going into any camp,” Cousins said.
“Even if I don’t have a chance, I just want to open up some eyes and get them talking about me and get them excited for a bright future.”