No sophomore slump for Couture


No sophomore slump for Couture

SAN JOSE Logan Couture might be a little reluctant to flip the calendar to a new year on Sunday.

After all, the Sharks forward had a memorable 2011. He cemented himself as one of the NHLs top young talents, was a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the leagues rookie of the year, and is currently the Sharks leading goal scorer in his second full season.

Hes scored nine goals in the Sharks last 13 games, and has been the teams most consistent forward.

Hes one of the most competitive guys Ive been around. He wants the puck all the time, Todd McLellan said.

He gets better every day.

It didnt start out too well in October, though. Couture entered the year firmly entrenched on the Sharks second line, after the team moved scorers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in the offseason. The pressure was on his shoulder pads to at least repeat the 32-goal, 54-point performance from his rookie year.

In the first five games, Couture managed a meager two assists and no goals.

I talked with Logan in the summer about what he was going to face coming up, McLellan said. The attention he was going to receive, not only locally, but when we travel to other cities and Canada. Also, from there, the preparation that other teams were going to make for him and his line.

I would say, out of the gate, he wasnt quite prepared for it. But, probably four or five games in, he started to evolve and now its been consistent game-in and game-out.

Since then, Couture has had just one stretch where hes failed to go without a goal in four games.

Every player goes through slumps like that, where they dont score a goal in a certain amount of games, Couture said. Mine just happened to be at the start of the year, and things have been pretty consistent as of late.

Coutures linemate for most of his first two years, Ryane Clowe, credits Coutures mental approach to the game as one of the reasons hes been able to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.

It was kind of a little but of a test to see how he responded when he went through a slump, and you see, it didnt bother him, Clowe said.

I know first hand how good he is playing with him, and he makes me a better player. Ill admit that right away. Mentally, things roll off his shoulders pretty easily. I know thats easy when youre young, but I think thats just his attitude.

With 16 goals and 27 points in 34 games, and with his production on the upswing, Couture could very well reach the 40-goal plateau this year something only two Sharks have done since the NHL lockout (Jonathan Cheechoo, 56 in 2005-06; Patrick Marleau, 44 in 2009-10).

Coutures not hung up on a number, though.

It would sure be nice. I dont look at it and say I need to score 40 goals this year, but you need to consistently have chances and contribute offensively and well see where I am at the end of the year, he said.

Couture has also reversed an anomaly from his stats last year, in which the majority of his goals came on the road. When he fired a wrist shot past Roberto Luongo in Wednesday nights 3-2 overtime loss to Vancouver, it was his 11th goal at HP Pavilion after just 10 there all of last year.

Last year, I cant explain why I scored so many goals on the road, he said. The other team can get their matchup, where at home we get the matchup that we like.

It doesnt matter where the goals are coming, though, as long as they keep going in for the 22-year old as the calendar turns to January.

Im in one of those streaks right now where the puck seems to be following me around, Couture said. Im getting chances and scoring some goals. Its obviously nice to contribute, and hopefully it can continue.

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

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DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

* * *

The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”