If you have been watching the Stanley Cup playoffs this year, there are a whole lot of fun stories going on. The mighty Boston Bruins, the Goliaths of the 2022-23, were slain by the lowly Davids from Florida; who also dispatched the Toronto Maple Leafs, crushing the hopes and dreams of their fans in the process. There are several former Flyers who are taking active parts in these playoffs from former Flyer, now Panther goalies Alex Lyon and Sergei Bobrovksy to Carolina head coach Rod Brind’amour.
One name that keeps coming up in these playoffs is former Flyer Nick Cousins. Cousins was drafted in 2011 in the third round and was the Flyers’ second pick that season as they lacked a second rounder. Taken in the first round that year was another center, Sean Couturier.
A scouting report on him said:
"“Given his size, Cousins plays a tough, competitive and complete game. While he is feisty and hard to get off of the puck, Cousins will need to bulk up in order to be physically ready to play in the NHL.”"
as well as:
"“Cousins has a modest upside. Will need time to develop and must overcome his lack of size.”"
Cousins took a while to develop. He didn’t break into the NHL until he played 11 scoreless games in the 2014-15 season. He spent three years in Philly as a bottom line center; scoring just 12 total goals.
In June of 2017, he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes with goalie prospect Merrick Madsen for a fifth round draft pick and prospect Brendan Warren. Warren is 26 and has never played in the NHL, spending the last three years in the AHL for Rochester. That fifth round pick went on to become Linus Hogberg.
Maybe he didn’t fit in with the ever changing coaching styles of whoever was coaching that year. Maybe the Flyers felt he just wasn’t developing as well as they had hoped. And let’s be honest, it’s easy to find bottom six forwards.
And so, Cousins was no longer a Flyer. After two years with Arizona, he spent a year in Montreal before being a trade deadline deal to Vegas. He then signed a two year deal with Nashville before signing on as a free agent this year with Florida.
Cousins has never been a goal scorer. His best year was his first year in Arizona where he scored 12 goals. Even this season with Florida, he has scored nine goals with 18 assists; which, sadly, would tie him with Cam York for 10th on the team with assists and 10th with Ivan Provorov with 27 points.
But this playoff season has been a different story. He’s scored two goals; one of which has the whole hockey world talking.
Cousins scored the overtime game winner that sent the Leafs packing and the Panthers to an Eastern Conference appointment with the Carolina Hurricanes. Not only that, if you’ve been watching the Panthers play this postseason, he is becoming one of their playoff leaders. Yes, Matthew Tkachuk is leading the charge, but Cousins is the guy who is making things happen on the bottom lines. He is helping to shut down the Bruins and Leafs.
And while watching him, there is part of you that wants to yell, “Where the f$%& were you on the Flyers?” I mean, Cousins was an “ok at best” player. But he is coming up big in the playoffs for Florida.
And that is something the Flyers could really use right about now. Sure, they have to get to the playoffs first. But they need that go-to guy. Yes, they need a superstar too, but they need to have that guy who can rally the team around each other, even if they aren’t the superstar. Cousins is fulfilling that role in Florida right now. It’s a shame he couldn’t do it here. Even then, it is hard to be mad at a guy like him for shining on hockey’s brightest stage.