Philadelphia Flyers forward Nick Cousins hasn’t found any shortcuts to the NHL, but his time may have come.
Nick Cousins has never been a sexy name among Philadelphia Flyers prospects. Taken in the 3rd round of the 2011 NHL draft, most Flyers fans easily forget that the Flyers got 2 picks from Columbus in the Jeff Carter trade. Everyone remembers how the first pick was used; on Sean Couturier.
Since then, Nick Cousins has quietly gone about his business. He has shown steady improvement every year in juniors and the AHL, and from what I saw last season, he was the Phantoms most impressive player. Cousins improved to career highs, scoring 38 points in 38 AHL games.
Cousins played 4 games with the Flyers in late November, and he became a permanent fixture in the lineup in February. All told, Cousins played 36 games with the Flyers this season, scoring 11 points. His stat line of 11 points, +5 seem pretty pedestrian, although +5 puts him 3rd among all Flyers forwards. To be fair, Cousins likely benefited from joining the team at the right time, like Andrew MacDonald.
Go one level deeper in the stats, and Cousins has some nice numbers.
Cousins didn’t get a ton of ice time, but he was a very reliable player. His teammate relative Corsi percentage ended at +2.17, which he accomplished mostly by limiting opponent shots. Furthermore, his teammate relative expected goal percentage was +4.03. Even knocking him for his timing of joining the team, these are nice numbers.
Cousins particularly found success when paired with Matt Read and Scott Laughton down the stretch. These 3 speedy, undersized players formed an effective two-way third line for the Flyers–something they had lacked for most of the season. When together, they performed at an approximate Corsi percentage of ~55%, even if many goals didn’t come for them.
Cousins also has room for improvement. His point-per-game play in the AHL shows he has offensive talents. He will never be that kind of producer in the NHL, but that usually projects to a capable depth forward. One item on Cousins’ list to improve is his point production.
Cousins falls at 8th in points per 60 at 5v5 this season. This isn’t horrible for a depth forward, but certainly room for improvement.
The second item on Cousins’ list for improvement is to become a special teams player. He was not used in the penalty kill rotation this season, but he will probably need to earn a spot there if he’s to stick as a long term 3rd line center.
Lastly, Cousins only won 46.0% of faceoffs this season. He’ll want to get that percentage up. That would help him all situations, but would particularly make him a more effective penalty killer if he can be a good faceoff guy.
All in all, Cousins put in a solid rookie half-season. Cousins will turn 23 this summer, so he’s right on schedule to arrive in the NHL. The foundations of a solid NHL player are there, but he’ll have to keep his steady climb of improving every season to be a lineup fixture.
Cousins also needs a new contract this summer. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, but I see no reason the Philadelphia Flyers won’t sign him again. He only earned $842,500 last season, so a moderate raise on a 2-year “show me” contract would make a lot of sense for both sides in my opinion.
Cousins may continue to be an un-glamorous Flyer. That hasn’t stopped him from improving in the past. With Brayden Schenn and Scott Laughton liking moving to the wing, and Sean Couturier being promoted to number 2 center, the number 3 center role is there for the taking. Cousins just might be ready to grab it.