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Confident Couture a big reason for Sharks' success

VANCOUVER -- Sharks coach Todd McLellan's eyes light up as soon as Logan Couture's name comes up in conversation.

"Cout," McLellan quipped to NHL.com on his way into his press conference Monday at Rogers Arena. "He's great, isn't he? So mature."

McLellan expounded on his feelings of Couture, San Jose's 22-year-old confident second-line center, once he sat down at the podium to address the attending media the day after Vancouver edged his team, 3-2, in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

"I think Logan's personality reflects his play and you guys get an opportunity to deal with him, so you can see it," McLellan said. "It comes out when you speak to him. He's vibrant, pretty intelligent, he's got an energy about him and he's excited about being here. All of those things happen when he's dealing with you off the ice and he carries that onto the ice as well."

We can attest to the accuracy in McLellan's comments about Couture. The kid's confidence radiates out of him in his dealings with the media, and he's not afraid to speak to the fans either via his Twitter account, which is full of his takes on some pop-culture items, his thoughts on his beloved Toronto Blue Jays and shout-outs to the Sharks' fans.

He has over 36,600 followers.

In front of the media, Couture is not a loud talker or someone with a broad ego, but he quietly tells it like it is. That's not always the case for young players on teams with proven veterans such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and Dany Heatley.

"My parents have always been known to speak their mind with me so I guess that might have worn off," Couture said. "Whatever I think, I'm going to say it. I've always been that way."

He agreed that quiet confidence is the best way to describe his demeanor, but it helps that this isn't his first kick at the can in the Western Conference Finals. Couture was with the Sharks last season when they made it here and lost in four games to the Chicago Blackhawks.

"You learn just how good the League is and how good the players are in this League, especially in the playoffs when it's cranked up to another level," Couture said. "Playing in games like this is something that you don't know what it's like until you're a part of it. It's so intense and every play is magnified. That helped me prepare this summer for this season and I feel more comfortable this time around."

Couture, who is one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie, doesn't rub his teammates the wrong way with all of his confidence and honesty. In fact, they appreciate him even more for it because they know he's not speaking from his ego, but instead from his heart.

"He's not arrogant or cocky by any means, but very confident in his ability," said Ryane Clowe, who plays on Couture's left side and rooms with him on the road. "He came up last year and scored big goals, and he stepped right in this year at second-line center. For a young guy to be consistent all year is pretty impressive."

Heatley, Couture's right wing on the Sharks' second line, said his dry sense of humor makes him fun to be around.

"He's a sharp kid, a witty guy," Heatley said. "Just hanging out with him on the bus or at a restaurant, he definitely has some little jabs. He's a fun guy to be around and a fun guy to play with."

It's not a secret as to why Clowe and Heatley love playing with Couture so much -- it's his two-way ability.

Couture is one of the Sharks' most prolific goal scorers and playmakers, but he's also one of the best defenders. It wouldn't be shocking to see a Selke Trophy in his future.

"Usually with a young kid you're watching him to see how he competes in his own end and if he's lost there it's probably is going to take a couple of years," Clowe said, "but that's probably the most impressive thing about him, his two-way ability at such a young age."

Heatley said it's very rare to see such ability from a young player with such an offensive flair.

"I think a lot of guys, if they have success early on they are straight offensive guys, but he's a guy that puts up numbers offensively and is very responsible defensively," Heatley said. "He does a lot of things very well."

Couture credits his minor hockey coaches for hammering home the idea of how good defense leads to offensive chances.

"It's true, especially with the style that we play," he said. "We have 'D' jumping up all the time, pinching, so if you make a good play it's going to lead to offense."

It helped Couture scored 32 goals and dish out 24 assists in 79 regular-season games in 2010-11. It has helped him score 6 goals and assist on 6 others in 14 playoff games.

Couture didn't get into the box score in Game 1, but he finished with five shots, two hits, four takeaways and three blocked shots.

He still wasn't happy. He was not afraid to say why.

"We lost, and that's the first thing I care about," Couture said. "There are four teams left and we didn't play like one of the best four teams in the League (Sunday) night. It's disappointing. You can draw up any excuses, but it was definitely us that lost that game. I don't think it was really them. They didn't really do anything out of the ordinary to win it. We just didn't play well."

See the confidence? See the moxie?

It's no wonder McLellan has time for anyone who wants to talk about Couture. The kid plays like a star, is confident like a veteran and honest like a coach should be.

"He's a guy that doesn't get rattled by much," Heatley said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl