Logan Couture

McLellan: ‘Elite’ Couture driving Sharks’ bus right now


For years, the guys leading the charge in San Jose have been Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle.

But according to Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, there’s a new leader emerging — Logan Couture.

“The way he’s been playing lately, he’s been driving our bus right now,” McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News. “He’s the head guy and he’s making it happen and we’re happy for him.

“He’s elevated himself into an elite role — he’s penetrated into that leadership group and solidified his place there.”

Couture, 24, led the Sharks in goals this year (21) and tied Joe Pavelski for the team lead in game-winning tallies, with five.

Yet it’s his emergence as a defensive force that’s really raised eyebrows. He tied Martin Havlat for a team-best plus-7 rating and, along with Marleau and TJ Galiardi, has formed San Jose’ top shutdown line.

Couture also led the Sharks with 51 blocked shots in the abbreviated season, second among all NHL forwards (only New York’s Ryan Callahan had more).

Looking ahead, it’s possible Couture will match up with Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler in the opening playoff round.

Thornton drew the majority of the assignment during the 2011 Western Conference finals, but Couture said he’d relish the opportunity to square off against the 2011 Selke Trophy winner this time around.

“He battles, he’s a competitor, he’s hard on pucks. He just makes it tough to play against,” Couture said of Kesler. “He’s just one of the tougher centers to play against in the Western Conference.

“I look forward to the challenge if we do happen to match up against him.”

Slepyshev earns final Oilers roster spot; Draisaitl to AHL

Anton Slepyshev, Anton Lander
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The Edmonton Oilers have assigned center Leon Draisaitl to AHL Bakersfield.

The demotion of Draisaitl, 19, means 21-year-old rookie Anton Slepyshev has made the opening-day roster after scoring twice and adding two assists in exhibition action.

The Oilers experimented during the preseason with Draisaitl, a natural center, on the wing. He didn’t have a particularly poor camp, finishing with one goal and three assists in six games.

But Slepyshev apparently impressed more.

“He’s a young player but he’s played pro hockey before,” coach Todd McLellan told the Edmonton Journal. “You can see it.”

Slepyshev played 58 games in the KHL last season, scoring 15 goals for Salavat Yulaev Ufa.

Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado

Jared McCann, Connor McDavid, Ben Hutton

A preseason push by a number of Vancouver Canucks youngsters has left forward Linden Vey and defenseman Frank Corrado on waivers today.

The more surprising name of the two is Corrado, the 22-year-old who entered the season with an excellent chance of making the opening-day roster. However, it seems that rookie d-man Ben Hutton, 22, has been given the nod after finishing an eye-opening preseason with one goal and four assists in seven games. (This despite Hutton being waiver exempt. So it’s a risk for the Canucks, to be sure.)

It was the play of 19-year-old rookie Jared McCann that led, in part, to the waiving of Vey. (For more on that, click here.) Veteran Adam Cracknell remains with the team as well, to some surprise.

Rookie winger Jake Virtanen is also expected to be on Vancouver’s opening-day roster, though that’s no big shock.

Defenseman Alex Biega is also on waivers, as expected.