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.”