Let’s agree that the most difficult job in the NHL is playing in the league. The second toughest thing to do just might be deciding whom to draft in the first round.
On Sunday in New Jersey the San Jose Sharks hockey department, headed up by General Manager Doug Wilson and Director of Scouting Tim Burke, will go about the task of trying to identify an 18 year old player who they hope can make a huge difference on the ice in the NHL some day. It’s a daunting task.
Back in June of 2007 the San Jose Sharks made a trade with the St. Louis Blues and moved up to the 9th position in the first round of the draft where they selected 18-year-old Logan Couture from the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League. That season Couture had managed 78 points in just 54 games and finished second on his team in scoring behind eventual Sharks teammate Jamie McGinn. Logan added eight more points in five playoff games.
Although he had very good offensive numbers, it wasn’t numbers alone that convinced the Sharks to use their valuable pick on Couture. Near the end of that 2006-2007 season Couture was banged up with a variety of injuries. But he didn’t throw in the towel. He didn’t quit. He could have shut down for the year and preserved his draft status. But he didn’t worry about that. He kept on going. He played hurt and showed a tremendous amount of dedication and heart to the bitter end. It was when the Sharks scouting staff saw those attributes in a skilled teenage hockey player they were convinced they were making the right choice. What a choice it’s turned out to be.
This past season we saw Logan Couture break through as a true star in the NHL. And in Game 3 of the second round against Los Angeles we saw those same character traits that emerged in the OHL in 2007 re-emerge in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After crashing awkwardly into the boards in the second period and hobbling to the dressing room, Couture returned to the game and eventually scored the overtime game-winning goal helping the Sharks avoid an 0-3 deficit in the series. Your can venture your own guess as to how Logan “magically” recovered from what was obviously a nasty ankle injury. Whatever that treatment was, it had to be repeated before each of the remaining games of the series. Logan Couture had once again revealed his character, his leadership and his toughness. Just as he did in 2007 when the Sharks decided he was their man.
Sunday the Sharks will go through the process all over again. When they make their selection in the first round it won’t be all about statistics, it’ll also be about heart and character. If they can come close to the pick they made on that day in June seven years ago, we’ll all have something very special to look forward to.