During San Jose's inaugural season, Sharks rookie and first round draft pick Pat Falloon set a franchise record for goals with 25.
And after 19 years, another first round draft pick is on his way to breaking it.
Sharks center Logan Couture
has scored 22 goals in the first 48 games of his rookie season. He leads the Sharks in goals, leads the NHL in game winning goals (6) and earned a coveted spot on the Sharks top power play unit. He’s already broken the franchise record for game-winning goals by a rookie (it was four, held by Niko Dimitrakos from 2003-04) and is on his way to breaking another one.
The only difference is this record spans the entirety of the franchise.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Couture about approaching Falloon’s 19-year-old record. “A lot of great players have played for this organization. A lot of great rookies. Hopefully I can break it soon, but to be up there is pretty special.”
At only 21-years-old, Couture has proven that he’s an all-around player. Not only can he score goals, but he can block shots, play the point on the Sharks top power play unit and demonstrate control in the neutral zone. While most rookie forwards show flashes of brilliance alongside a handful of mistakes, Couture displays consistency.
“It’s the physical part, the mental part and the skill part. And Logan has all three,” said Sharks radio analyst and former player Jamie Baker. “I think Logan is the complete hockey player.”
After playing two seasons with the Ottawa 67’s (OHL), Couture was drafted ninth overall in the 2007 NHL Draft. He then completed two more seasons in Ottawa before making his way to the Worcester Sharks (AHL) for the 2008-09 season. This allowed him to fine-tune his skills and develop his maturity before heading to the NHL.
During the 2009-10 season, Couture played 42 games with Worcester, but got the call from Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson to play 25 games in San Jose. That led to 15 postseason appearances which included four goals and the game winner against Colorado in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
“Part of Couture’s success is because they brought him in slowly,” explained Baker. “He’s not 18. He’s a 21-year-old. He’s a little more mature. He’s got great leg strength. He’s had three summers more than an 18-year-old to develop his strength.”
It was during last year’s playoff run that Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan began to trust Couture in clutch situations. And although the Sharks Coaching Staff had plans to incorporate Couture into the power play this season, his early offensive output jump-started the process.
“It wasn’t just a ‘this-year thing’ it was a ‘last-year thing’ in the playoffs; we started to feel much better about him when he came in and played,” explained McLellan. “We had some plans for him special-teams wise heading into the year, but with his start and the way he exploded, those were accelerated. Since that day, he’s taken more on and he’s become a very trust-worthy player. So the trust has grown so strong that I feel good playing him in any situation.”
While Couture stands on the doorstep of a Sharks franchise record, the current record holder is skating on a frozen lake outside his home in Foxwarren, Manitoba. At 38-years-old, Falloon has retired from hockey, but still enjoys skating outdoors with his daughter and makes a living as a grain farmer.
The Sharks first draft pick in franchise history said he’s seen Couture play a couple times on TV and was impressed with him.
When we asked him how he felt about Couture breaking his record, Falloon laughed and said, “The first thing it tells me is that record is from a really long time ago! Breaking a 19-year record is something to be proud of. He’s certainly having an excellent rookie season and that’s great for him. Looks like he’s going to beat it by quite a bit which is great.”
Falloon’s jump into the NHL was so different from Couture’s. Drafted as an 18-year-old, Falloon became the face of the first-year franchise. Fresh off a 138-point season (yes you read that right, 64 goals, 74 assists) in the Western Hockey League, the right winger came to San Jose with the highest of expectations on his shoulders. He put up great numbers during his rookie season, scoring 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists) in 79 games.
“As a winger, he had a great shot, he was a goal scorer,” said Baker who played alongside Falloon from 1993-96. “But he was here at a different time in the organization. He didn’t have the same pieces so there was a lot more pressure for him.”
Falloon spent four more seasons with the Sharks, but couldn’t replicate that lucrative rookie year. When he was traded to Philadelphia in 1995, he had recorded 162 points in 258 games with the Sharks, averaging .63 points per game.
The trade revived Falloon as he found success playing a supporting role on the Flyer’s attack, scoring 48 points in 62 games. He later went on to play for the Ottawa Senators (97-98 season), Edmonton Oilers (98-99 season) and Pittsburgh Penguins (99-00 season) over the span of his 12 year NHL career. He retired with 322 points (143 goals, 179 assists) in 575 games.
So while Couture and Falloon will be joined forever in the record books, the roads to their rookie years are really very different.
We asked Falloon if there was any advice he wanted to pass along to a fellow Sharks first round draft pick and with the most humble tone, he laughed.
“I don’t think he needs any advice from me,” said Falloon. “I think he’s got a great group of guys around him and he’s probably getting all the good advice he needs. Just enjoy it and have fun.”
For the fourth day in a row, Sharks left wing Ryane Clowe
was out on the ice. Head Coach Todd McLellan told reporters after practice that Clowe should be in the lineup against the Kings on Wednesday.
“He had a good skate yesterday and a good skate today,” said McLellan. “I would anticipate him playing Wednesday.”
The Sharks final game before the All-Star Break takes place Wednesday, January 26 against the Los Angeles Kings. Catch the game at 7:30 PM on CSN-CA in HD, 98.5 KFOX FM and SJSHARKS.com.