Last summer, Tyler Myers(notes) of the Buffalo Sabres walked away with the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. Logan Couture(notes) of the San Jose Sharks is making a very strong case to do the same later this year.
Myers and the Sabres look to bounce back from an overtime loss in the opener of a three-game western swing as they head to northern California to meet Couture and the Sharks on Thursday night.
Picked ninth overall by San Jose in the 2007 NHL entry draft, Couture has emerged this season as another scoring option on a team that features veterans Joe Thornton(notes) and Patrick Marleau(notes).
Couture, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound center, leads the Sharks (21-14-5) and all rookies with 18 goals, a team-best five game-winners and five on the power play. He’s also second with 27 points, trailing only Carolina’s Jeff Skinner(notes). Couture’s numbers are better than those of Edmonton’s Taylor Hall(notes) and Boston’s Tyler Seguin(notes) - the top two picks in last summer’s draft.
Couture was named the league’s top rookie for December after totaling 10 goals and four assists in 15 games while leading the Sharks to a 9-5-1 record.
“When you’re playing well individually and you are helping the team win, it’s great,” he told the Sharks’ official website. “That was something I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I’ve had streaks before in junior and the American League last year where it seems like everything you shoot goes in the net.
“That’s just the way this game goes.”
That’s not happened much this season to Myers, a 6-foot-8, 222-pound Texas native who the Sabres traded up to pick 12th overall in 2008.
In 2009-10, Myers was third in rookie scoring with 48 points behind Colorado’s Matt Duchene(notes) and John Tavares(notes) of the New York Islanders while playing all 82 games. He was the first rookie defenseman with at least 40 points since Bryan Berard(notes) in 1996-97.
“He’s very fluid,” Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said in April. “It’s highly unusual to see someone this mobile at that size and age.”
However, the 20-year old will need a big push in the second half of the season to match last year’s numbers. Through 37 games, Myers has five goals, 10 assists and is minus-12 - a sharp drop from his plus-13 rating as a rookie.
He hasn’t scored a goal in 18 games since Nov. 15, when he tallied his team-high third game-winner in overtime against Vancouver.
The Sabres (16-18-5) failed to win their season-high third straight after falling 4-3 on Tuesday in Colorado. Third-period goals by Jochen Hecht(notes) and Steve Montador(notes) just 63 seconds apart gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead, but Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller(notes) allowed the tying goal with less than 14 minutes left and David Jones’(notes) power-play tally in the final minute of overtime.
San Jose also was in position for its third straight win, but fell 4-3 to the Canucks on Monday - its first home loss to Vancouver since April 7, 2007. Antti Niemi(notes) made a season-high 43 saves after blanking Los Angeles on New Year’s Day.
The Sharks have been outscored 9-4 while losing two straight to the Sabres, including a 6-3 defeat Dec. 9 in Buffalo. Couture had a goal and assist.