Whiz kid scoring pre-season raves

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

Logan Couture is showing the stuff that made him so highly ranked for the OHL draft.

The rookie 67's centre completed his first pre-season in major junior hockey on a big high, scoring his first two goals and adding an assist during a 5-3 exhibition victory over the Kingston Frontenacs yesterday at the Civic Centre.

Coach-GM Brian Kilrea normally doesn't like to make too much about a new kid's talents, thinking that such praise could go straight to the player's head. But he's not holding back when talking about Couture, taken with the 12th pick of the draft last May.

HIGH PRAISE

Not only is Kilrea raving about Couture's offensive skills -- the 16-year-old from London led Ottawa in pre-season scoring with seven assists and two goals -- but he's also impressed with his play in the defensive zone.

"He looks like Alyn McCauley in our end," said Kilrea.

That's a big compliment, considering McCauley's status as one of the 67's best ever two-way players.

Couture is shy when it comes to such accolades. Asked if his pre-season success rated as a surprise, he replied, "Yeah, a bit. I guess I just work hard and I play with good linemates, and they got me the puck."

Those linemates during the last two games have been Slovakian import Tibor Radulay on the left side and second-year buzz saw Arron Alphonso on the right.

They worked well together yesterday, giving their team a boost in the second period with three goals that erased a 2-0 Frontenacs lead.

Alphonso, one of Ottawa's top performers during last May's Memorial Cup tournament, had two goals and a pair of assists, including the go-ahead goal two minutes into the final period.

Radulay had three assists and is being hailed as a big find from the European import draft.

"Tibor is kind of the same style as me," said Alphonso. "He's in there in the corners, crashing and banging, so it's not just me who has to do that. And then we've got Logan there who, if we can get the puck through the slot, he's going to put the puck in the net."

Couture wowed the crowd with his first goal five minutes into the second, getting rid of the puck quickly from the slot and ripping a hard wrister that beat Kingston goalie Daryl Borden high above his glove.

"He doesn't look or play like a rookie," said Kilrea. "He certainly fits in well. You don't want to put all kinds of pressure on him, but he'll make a line go."

BICKELL STATUS

Kilrea could leave Couture's line intact when the 67's begin the regular season Friday in Sault Ste. Marie, but he might need to make changes if left winger Bryan Bickell returns from NHL camp in Chicago before the opener.

Overage centre Julian Talbot scored Ottawa's other goal yesterday, sealing the win with an empty-netter with two seconds remaining.

'PIQUES WIN: Overager Guillaume Labrecque scored 69 seconds into overtime to give the Olympiques their first win of the QMJHL season, 2-1 over Rouyn-Noranda at the Guertin. Michael Stinziani tied it for Gatineau in the second period, answering Yannick Riendeau's first-period goal. Olympiques overage goalie David Tremblay made 28 saves.


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