When you are drafted only 8 players after NHL 10 cover boy and (insert taxi cab joke of choice here) Patrick Kane, there's bound to be some hype around your arrival. That hype is bound to turn to pressure when you're compared favorably to NHL legend Steve Yzerman and are one of only three players selected in the top ten by your team in the decade.
Oh yeah, and you're 17. Good luck with all that.
Couture wasn't ready to succeed at the NHL level when he was selected 9th overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 2007 NHL entry draft. That's actually to be expected, considering the team he was drafted by. Although it's something that happens mostly in the later rounds, the Sharks love drafting project players. Players who aren't great skaters (Joe Pavelski), players who don't accelerate well or struggle with consistency (Ryane Clowe), or need to add some size to their frame (Marc-Edouard Vlasic). Well, Couture needed to work on most all of those things heading back to juniors.
The Sharks draft players like this because they not only have confidence in the player, but also their organization's ability to coach the player through their shortcomings. This allows them to grab a player with innate, high skill that other teams may have been scared away from because of a few, possibly coachable, faults. Logan is a skilled playmaker, a capable goal scorer, and has an admirable and difficult to teach desire to play well in every area of the ice. The balance, stride, and size would come later.
Couture has done almost all of the things necessary to become an above average NHL player. Although he still has some work to do on keeping his feet, it's apparent he's adjusting quickly to the speed of the NHL game.
|2009 - Logan Couture||11||1||1||2||-2||4||0||0||0||0||14||7.1|
I'm not going to even try to say that he's got a decent NHL line there. It's alright considering his playing time and line mates, but doesn't really work with all the praise I'm giving him so far in this piece. My proof is in his AHL stats, below.
|2009 - Logan Couture||14||9||12||21||7||4||3||0||5||0||43||20.9|
Dizzam. It doesn't stop there, though. As an AHL rookie, Logan is putting together and extremely strong statistical season. His five game winning goals lead the league. He's got the longest point streak in the AHL; from October 10th to November 25th, where he scored 14 points (6 G, 8A). He's one of only two rookies in the top 25 for scoring, and that's in 11 less games than most other players in the top 25. What's most amazing, though, is his effect on his team.
Couture has been called up and sent down a few times this year, just like most other Sharks prospects. That gives us a pretty decent sample size to see his effect on the team. As Worcester Sharks broadcaster, Price is Right winner, and friend of the website Eric Lindquist pointed out in a press release, the Worcester Sharks really depend on Couture to get things going offensively. In the 14 games that he has played with the team, the Worcester Sharks average 3.42 goals per game. In the 12 games without him, the Sharks have scored just 1.91 goals per game. That's a pretty significant difference.
It didn't just start in the AHL, though. Logan has been scoring (just ask the ladies) since he first started in Juniors. He was most successful with Jamie McGinn as his wingman (again, ask the ladies), but has been able to score with just about anyone (do I really have to say it again?). Sexual innuendo aside, here are his carreer stats.
Logan Couture - Career Stats
|2005 -2006 Ottawa 67's||65||25||39||64||0.99|
|2006 -2007 Ottawa 67's||54||26||52||78||1.44|
|2007 -2008 Ottawa 67's||51||21||37||58||1.14|
|2008 -2009 Ottawa 67's*||62||39||48||87||1.40|
|2009 -2010 Worcester Sharks||14||9||12||21||1.50|
*Called up to AHL after conclusion of OHL season
Although scouts have been wary of Logan's long term scoring potential, his recent success in the AHL should do a little bit to quell those concerns. In fact, I'd say these numbers merit an almost permanent call up.
Don't agree with me? Let's look at Joe Pavelski's (short) AHL career.
|2006-2007 AHL Worcester Sharks||GP||G||A||P||P/GP|
That stat line was good enough to merit a call up to the NHL, and he never looked back. What's interesting, is how similar Joe's stat line is to Logan's. It's especially interesting because Couture has always been compared to Pavelski in terms of player type, skill set, and mental makeup. Time for a full time gig for Couture?
Ah, there's the problem. The Sharks are in the midst of a high pressure NHL season, one in which anything less than making the Stanley Cup Finals would be an OMG CRASHN BURN FALUREZ. That's not really the best environment for Couture to flourish. In addition, the cap situation doesn't help, especially when Couture is one of the higher priced rookies in the system.
When he has been called up, he's played admirably. But it's tough to succeed statistically when you're paired with the likes of Jody Shelley, Brad Staubitz, et. al. That's not an excuse, it's just not exactly the perfect situation. Hell, Joe Callahan assisted on his first career goal. The assist? Couture set up Staubitz's weird "flying goal". (That celebration is kind of sad, though... everyone gets to party but Logan)
It's kind of crazy that I'm using stats to talk about Couture's improvement when that's only half of his game. Even when he's on his rear end (like I said, balance), he's still fighting for the puck and wins important battles in all zones. That kind of motor can't be taught. That desire even further adds to his value.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the promise of Couture's skill is finally becoming more than promise. He's still got some work to do... but I'm thinking he's going to be a star in this league. In any other situation, he'd be working on that ascent now.