Prospect development can be tricky, but the San Jose Sharks
’ front office did the right thing with Logan Couture
, waiting two years to bring the young forward up to a full-time NHL roster spot -- and Couture certainly proved them right with his standout performance last season.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound center had 32 goals and 56 points during the regular season and added an additional 7 goals and 14 points in the postseason. Not only was he the Sharks’ second-leading goal-scorer, trailing only Patrick Marleau
, he also led the team in goals scored on the road with 22, which was 10 more than the next closest Shark.
"Maybe I should start staying in a hotel at home," Couture told NHL.com. "I don't know what it is (about road games)."
Center - SJS
GOALS: 32 | ASST: 24 | PTS: 56
SOG: 253 | +/-: 18
Couture's numbers at home were not too shabby either, so it's no wonder the 22-year-old was the runner-up for the Calder Trophy. He also signed a two-year contract extension with the Sharks over the summer worth a reported $5.75 million.
"I wanted to stay in San Jose because I believe that it gives me the best opportunity to win the Stanley Cup," Couture said. "Guys are on the same page out there. We all want to win."
After falling just short of the Stanley Cup Final two seasons in a row, Couture is ready to play a big role in the quest for hockey's Holy Grail.
Lucky for Couture, he fits right into San Jose’s offense-oriented system, so much so that he frequently appears on the top lines.
"It's always offense," Couture said. "It's four guys on the rush, trying to create offense, trying to score goals. Every hockey player wants to score goals, and we play where you get the puck and you go. It's fun to play."
Chances are he wouldn't have had quite so much fun last season if he hadn't been willing to wait things out in junior hockey and to trust the front office on when he could join the Sharks. Between being the ninth pick of the 2007 Entry Draft and last season, he had played just 25 games with the Sharks.
"I realized that we were doing the right thing," Couture said. "I wasn't ready to play in the NHL at 18 or 19."
After being drafted, Couture was returned to the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League for two more seasons, and then got a taste of the professional life late in the 2008-09 season with the Sharks' American Hockey League team, the Worcester Sharks. In 2009-10, he started the season in the AHL, where he had 20 goals and 33 assists in 42 games.
SHARKS 30 IN 15 RELATED STORIES
Those numbers earned him 25 NHL games with the Sharks, where he had 5 goals and 4 assists. He also had 4 goals in 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
That experience led to last season, when he was second among all rookies in goals and points.
The soft-spoken Couture adjusted well to the NHL and even learned to love all of the fanfare associated with playing for one of the Western Conference's premier teams.
"There were times when I was out with family or friends and people would come up and ask for autographs," Couture said. "But I'm starting to get used to it now. It's an honor when people recognize me and come up and ask for my autograph no matter who it is -- especially in a place like California."
Couture was born in Guelph, Ont., but grew up in London, and one of his closest friends is London native Drew Doughty
of the Los Angeles Kings
. In fact, Couture, Doughty and Anaheim Ducks
forward Corey Perry
, who played his junior hockey with the OHL's London Knights, played in a charity softball tournament over the summer to benefit the Wellspring Foundation, a London-based cancer research fund.
"It's funny that they play for the other California teams because we're all friends and we all hang out when we go back home," Couture said. "In the summer, I see Drew every day. He is one of my really good friends. It's a good thing that we ended up beating (the Kings) in the playoffs, because I don't think Drew heard the end of it all summer."
If his first full NHL season is an indicator, Couture could join Doughty, a Norris Trophy finalist two seasons ago, and Perry, the reigning Hart Trophy winner, as elite players in the League.
"I want to be the guy that coaches trust to put over the boards at any time of the game," he said.