Following the 2012-2013 OHL season, Philadelphia Flyers fans were buzzing about Nick Cousins. The 3rd round draft pick in 2011 had earned 103 points in 64 games for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He was the third highest scoring player in the league and there were whispers about him potential stealing an NHL roster spot.
Well, that did not happen. He spent the entire 2013-2014 season with the Adirondack Phantoms. His 29 points (11G, 18A) through 74 games were a letdown to say the least. However, as I detailed here, there was reason to be hopeful.
There were a myriad of factors working against Cousins last season. He was an undersized player adjusting to a physical league, while his skill set and style of play contrasted dramatically with the system of head coach Terry Murray. However, he put together a late season surge in points (15pts in final 23 games) that bred hope for the current season.
By the time Cousins put together this late season run, Flyers fans had already counted him out. They were more concerned with the big clubs early season struggles and playoff push. In terms of prospects, Nick Cousins was put on the back burner while shiny new toys like Shayne Gostisbehere, Scott Laughton, Robert Hagg, and Samuel Morin were given plenty of attention. Those players, not Cousins, are now viewed as the future of the franchise.
So far this year, Cousins has demanded attention. He leads the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in points and is a top 10 scorer in the AHL. He has earned 10 points (3G, 7A) through only 8 games. If we includeg the final 23 games of last season, he has earned 25 points (9G, 16A) in his last 31 AHL games.
The mantra around the Philadelphia Flyers organization has been “patience, patience, patience” when it comes to their prospects. Part of that patience is realizing that prospects develop at different rates. In his blog yesterday, Bill Meltzer had this to say about prospect development:
"It would be nice if player development was always a steady upward arrow and there were never any stumbles or injuries. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. Always keep the long-term in mind and remember: 1) The reason these players are prospects and not already NHL regulars is that they still need to gain experience, strength and greater consistency, 2) It is important for injured players not to be rushed back to the lineup too soon, and 3) every season has its ups and downs and even the very best players have some stretches where things don’t go their way. That’s the nature of hockey."
Meltzer was more specifically talking about defense prospects, but the same is true for Cousins. He may have some bad games this season and he has had quite a few growing pains both on and off the ice over the past few years. However, it appears that this forgotten prospect may be turning into that scrappy, offensively gifted center that he was projected to be at the 2011 draft.