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Keeping an Eye on Cousins

Sunday, 08.5.2012 / 6:25 AM ET
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out
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There have been plenty of them over the years who have stuck in the craw of many Flyers and their fans.

In the 80s it was Dale Hunter in Washington. In the 90s it was Matthew Barnaby in Buffalo. In the 2000s it was Sean Avery – wherever he played and now it’s Brad Marchand in Boston.

Smallish players who have an ability to make your skin crawl with the way they play the game on the ice – toeing the line between dirty play and merely being a pest, it is these sandpaper types whose job it is to get the opposing players off their game.

The players find them annoying. The fans have so much venom, they’d prefer that each cretin be drawn and quartered – live on the JumboTron.

But now it appears the Flyers are grooming one of their own.

That’s because their top prospect is a kid with an edge. A mouthy little guy unafraid of retribution who also has an ability to score.

Meet Nick Cousins, the next great Flyers agitator.

“I’ve watched him play a bunch of times in the last year and I really like him because he reminds me of me,” said Flyers Director of Player Development Ian Laperriere. “He’s got more skill, but we play a similar type of game where he gets under your skin and draws a lot of attention on himself and handles it well. You need that on your team.”

And there’s a chance it won’t be long until we see Cousins on the Flyers.

The odds are pretty good that Cousins, 19, will be sent back to juniors following training camp, but he’s definitely a guy the Flyers brass is going to keep an eye on as well.

Originally a third round pick by the Flyers in the 2011 draft, Cousins blossomed last season by posting 88 points for the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds in just 65 games. He also added 88 penalty minutes, evidence of that two-tiered approach to his game.

“Yeah, it’s part of my game, I’m not going to hide from it,” Cousins said about being a provocateur. “It’s the way I’ve always played – ever since I was little. I like to talk a lot out there and sometimes people don’t like to hear what I have to say.”

A sheepish grin immediately followed, letting you know Cousins doesn’t just yap as an emotional reaction, but very likely in a more calculated fashion.

It is this pre-meditated approach to hockey that makes him such a high-end prospect, but it has also gotten him on the wrong end of an opponent’s fury.

Last November, while playing the Greyhounds, Cousins’ team had just completed a thrilling 4-3 win over their rival London Knights in London.

As the horn sounded, rather than celebrate with his team, Cousins shut the puck into the empty net at the other end of the ice and then raised his arms in celebration after the puck went in.

Knights defenseman Ryan Rupert didn’t take too kindly to this act of showmanship and slashed Cousins in the stomach as he skated by. It earned Rupert a 20-game suspension, but more so than that, furthered Cousins already sizeable reputation as an agitator extraordinaire.

“Nick will get under your skin,” teammate Ryan Sproul told the London Free Press. “He’s the kind of guy you love to have on your team and hate to play against.

“You talk to guys and they say they can’t stand him, but he’s our best player and we're going to stand behind him.”

It’s because of this style of game that Cousins will likely draw attention to himself once training camp opens in September.

The Flyers faithful will love his spunk and spirit, and call for him to make the team as that loveable louse.

The media will gush all over about him, clamoring for him to make the team as the needed salt to rub in to the opponent’s wounds.

And while the impatience is there for everyone – Cousins included – he knows where he stands right now.

“You just try to block all that out,” he said. “If you put too much pressure on yourself you don’t play your style of game. You can get carried away with all the media hype, but coming in here I block that stuff out and do what got me here.

“My mindset going into camp is to do what I do best and be the player I am. Work hard, play my game and go in there with nothing to lose. If they keep me, great. If they send me back to junior, I do that for another year and try again next year.”

As for the anticipation of one day making it to the big club…

“It’s exciting,” he said. “Hopefully I have a future with this organization. I want things to fast forward a little bit, but I have to be patient and the Flyers have to be patient with my development. They’re not going to rush anything, neither am I and hopefully my time will come.”

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 50 37 9 4 163 112 78
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
7 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
8 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
9 NYI 50 26 18 6 135 126 58
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 50 23 18 9 119 130 55
12 MTL 53 25 24 4 142 142 54
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 50 16 28 -4 44
J. Voracek 50 8 34 1 42
W. Simmonds 50 18 16 -4 34
B. Schenn 48 14 15 -1 29
S. Gostisbehere 32 9 17 4 26
S. Couturier 40 9 15 9 24
M. Read 49 9 9 -5 18
S. Laughton 50 4 10 -6 14
M. Raffl 50 6 6 2 12
M. Del Zotto 48 3 9 -9 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 12 12 7 .916 2.68
M. Neuvirth 11 6 2 .933 2.14
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