by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
One of the problems with popping in and out of town so much is it that plays havoc with your grocery shopping schedule.
That can be a challenge for Worcester Sharks rookie forward Logan Couture.
Couture is very particular about doing his own shopping. Specifically, he likes steak, fresh and lots of it. He has this habit of eating an eight-ouncer after most morning skates, right before his afternoon nap, followed by his pregame snack of pasta.
"I’ve done it since I’ve played juniors. It gets a little expensive," Couture said while unpacking his latest haul last week. "It’s in my head. It’s mental."
Couture typically will get three or four New York Strips a week, depending upon the game schedule. But here’s the issue — lately he hasn’t been around enough to enjoy them, at least not in their freshest state.
Through the first two months of the season, Couture has been recalled to San Jose six times. If it’s Monday, it must be Worcester. Tuesday, then it’s California. Wednesday, Philadelphia. Friday, Providence.
That’s far too steady a diet of plane food. Good thing all the destinations make it worth Couture’s while.
"It’s so frequent going up and down. I never know where I’m going to be," Couture said. "It’s tough on your body. But for me to play in the NHL, it’s something I’m going to have to deal with."
But probably not for much longer.
In his limited time in the AHL, Couture, the ninth pick of the 2007 Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks, has established himself as one of the dominant rookies of 2009-10. His 21 points (9-12) in just 15 games have him second among all newcomers. His six game-winning tallies lead the league.
"I’ll tell you what — he’s putting up some numbers for a rookie. This isn’t an easy league," Worcester coach Roy Sommer said. "He’s always a play ahead of everything. That’s usually the sign of a kid who has good hockey sense. Most games he’s playing now, he’s one of the best players on the ice."
Watch Couture, 20, play for even the briefest of moments and you’ll see a lot of things on the ice. Something you won’t see — at least not too often — is a griper.
Couture’s father, Chet, is a London, Ont.-based referee in the National Lacrosse League. Logan, who played lacrosse when he was younger, used to go to those games and become amused when other fans would berate his father.
"It was funny sometimes," Logan said. "People would be all over the refs. We’d sit there and chuckle. He gave me some tips of how to be on the good side of refs."
"Say hi, be friendly," Logan said. "If you get a penalty, keep your mouth shut and go to the box. Most of the time I really don’t say anything."
Chet gave Logan all kinds of edges. One of father’s side jobs was the production of hockey nets. That meant Logan always had a quality, true-to-life target to fire at. He’d rip away for a couple hundred shots and then jump into the family pool.
For some reason, though, Logan always had to be urged to employ that finely crafted tool in junior. Through his first three seasons with the Ottawa 67’s, he had far more assists than goals. In his last season, 2008-09, he narrowed that gap to 39-48.
"In junior I looked to pass to someone to shoot," he said. "My dad has been all over me for a long time. I think it’s finally clicked in."
Springfield goalie Aaron Sorochan will vouch for that. Couture won a contest Nov. 25 when his bomb from dead center 40 feet away blinded the netminder and hit the back of the net early in the third.
"It’s someone else, you might say it’s an unusual shot," Sommer said. "When you see it game in and game out, that’s what he does."
Couture said he didn’t picture himself doing such things quite so early and often.
"This league is a very, very good league, with a lot of good players," he said. "It’s tough to produce points. Right now, I guess I’m playing good hockey. I’m scoring more goals than I thought I would."
Imagine how much more damage Couture might be doing with a rested body.
The most recent of his airports across North America tour might be a little out of the ordinary, but not by much. He was recalled to San Jose on Nov. 13, played at St. Louis on Nov. 14, at Chicago on Nov. 15 and at Nashville on Nov. 17.
He was sent down Nov. 18, arriving in Worcester just in time for warm-ups before a game against Portland. He recorded an assist against the Pirates, and then went back to San Jose.
"Every time I do get called up, the hope is to stay there," Couture said. "But the team they have up there, I think it’s the best team in the League. It’s a tough lineup to crack. I don’t know, personally, if I’m ready to go up there. They’ve made great decisions with their prospects in the past. I expect them to make the right one with me."
Sommer does, too. He understands that each trip to San Jose increases Couture’s exposure there, and lessens the amount of time he’ll ripen in the minors. That’s why the coach’s strategy for enjoying Couture in the moment is simple:
"Get as much out of him as you can," he said. "They (San Jose) will watch him. They will see what he’s made of. There is some big things coming for him, for sure."
Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.