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Couture Sets Sights on Calder Memorial Trophy

by Alex Aragon / San Jose Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Just one week after the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins skated away with hockey’s ultimate prize, many of the best hockey players in the world will convene in Las Vegas on Wednesday night to honor the best individual performances from the 2010-11 National Hockey League season.

Calder Trophy winner Nabokov in 2001
The star-studded event will be broadcast live on VERSUS at 4:00 PM (Pacific) from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel. Celebrity hockey fans Cobie Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother”) and Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) are among the many guest presenters scheduled to appear.

For the fourth consecutive year, a member of the San Jose Sharks organization has been selected as a finalist at the annual event. San Jose center Logan Couture is up against Carolina’s Jeff Skinner and the New York Islanders’ Michael Grabner for the Calder Memorial Trophy, presented to the League’s Outstanding Rookie. It’s probable that the three young snipers will also take the three forward positions on the 2010-11 All-Rookie Team, but only one will add Calder Trophy Winner to their pedigree.

“I have great respect for the other players that are up for the award, but I think Logan should win it,” Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson said on Monday. “He’s a very important player for us going forward and I hope it goes well for him in Vegas.”

Couture looks to become the second Sharks rookie to win the award, repeating former goaltender Evgeni Nabokov’s feat from the 2001 season. Current Sharks forward Dany Heatley is also a past recipient, claiming Rookie of the Year honors after his 2002 breakout campaign with the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg franchise).

Masterton Trophy winner Granato in 1997
San Jose has had their share of awards finalists in recent years: Jed Ortmeyer in 2010 (Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy – Perseverance, Sportsmanship & Dedication to Hockey), Todd McLellan in 2009 (Jack Adams Award – Outstanding Coach), and Nabokov in 2008 (Vezina Trophy – Outstanding Goaltender). But San Jose has not brought home any hardware since Joe Thornton’s haul in 2006.

That year Thornton captured the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s Leading Scorer, helped linemate Jonathan Cheechoo secure the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the League’s Regular Season Goal Scoring Leader, then capped off the year with the Hart Memorial Trophy as the League’s Most Valuable Player. Thornton also finished runner-up to Jaromir Jagr for the Lester B. Pearson Award (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award) for the most outstanding player as selected by the NHL Players’ Association.

Former Sharks forward Tony Granato – now an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins – was the first San Jose player to win a major NHL award, securing the 1997 Masterton Trophy. Granato sustained a severe head injury while playing for the Los Angeles Kings in 1996, but returned less than 12 months after undergoing brain surgery to remove a life-threatening blood clot to become a cornerstone of the Sharks organization.

Couture has presented a strong case for himself after a stellar 2010-11 campaign.

He led all rookies with eight game-winning goals, seven of which came on the road, an NHL rookie record. He finished second among rookies in regular season and playoff scoring behind only Skinner and Boston’s Brad Marchand respectively. His 32 goals tied him for 14th in the League, matching the output of perennial snipers Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, Thomas Vanek, Jonathan Toews and Phil Kessel.

But perhaps his biggest contribution centered around his three-zone game and his ability to play in all situations. He was strong on faceoffs (53.4%), logged crucial minutes on special teams and was lauded by his teammates as one of the most consistent players all season in helping San Jose to a fourth consecutive Pacific Division title.

Should Couture capture the Calder on Wednesday night, it would mark San Jose’s sixth major NHL award win.


Hart Memorial and Art Ross Trophy winner Thornton in 2006

A look back at past Sharks NHL Awards Finalists:

2011 – Logan Couture (Calder Finalist)
2010 – Jed Ortmeyer (Masterton Finalist)
2009 – Todd McLellan (Adams Finalist)
2008 – Evgeni Nabokov (Vezina Finalist)
2006 – Joe Thornton (Hart Winner, Ross Winner), Jonathan Cheechoo (Richard Winner)
              Joe Thornton (Pearson Finalist), Patrick Marleau (Byng Finalist)
2004 – Alyn McCauley (Selke Finalist), Ron Wilson (Adams Finalist)
2001 – Evgeni Nabokov (Calder Winner)
2000 – Brad Stuart (Calder Finalist)
1997 – Tony Granato (Masterton Winner)
1994 – Kevin Constantine (Adams Finalist)

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