Maybe it’s the Guelph, Ont., product’s youthful exuberance. Maybe it’s the fact it’s he, not Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau or Joe Pavelski or Ryane Clowe, who will be a part of this month’s all-star festivities in the city he first caught the hockey world’s attention as a member of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s.
“When I saw it was gonna be in Ottawa this year, I kind of joked that it’d be a blast to be there,” Couture said Tuesday before taking on the Calgary Flames at the HP Pavilion (8:30 p.m., Sportsnet West, Sportsnet 960).
“I never really pictured myself getting an invite to that team, especially in this league with all the great players that are playing. Even on this team, with all the great players we have on this team.”
Couture will join stars such as Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Gaborik, Eveni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Alex Ovechkin and of course Calgary’s Jarome Iginla.
But even if Couture is looking at long odds against getting out of his seat before the end of the fantasy draft during which captains pick their teams for the all-star game, he’s considered a strong fit by his own team.
“Well, he was at the rookie (all-star event) at 21 and he certainly earned that. I look at his play — not just this year but since he’s been in the league with us — improved on daily basis, monthly basis, yearly basis. Huge part of our team,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, who will be behind one of the benches at the all-star event. “He’s quickly becoming the part in the washing machine that makes it go, for lack of a better analogy.
“He can elevate his play, make people around him better. He’s hitting the scoresheet, plays well defensively.
“He fits in with our star players at a very young age. That’s probably the best compliment that you can give him.”
Couture takes every compliment in stride. He’s humble. His nature is unwavering and even-keeled. He treats everyone with respect.
That balance might be a product of watching his firefighter dad, Chet Couture, work as a referee in the National Lacrosse League and go through the ups and downs of sports on the other side of the whistle.
“You realize what refs go through. They’ve got a tough job. Guys are harping on them all the time — it seems like they can never make the right call in other teams’ minds. I think of it from that standpoint,” Couture said. “Obviously, there’s times I get upset at them. I go back to the bench and I understand what they’re going through. It definitely helps.”
He witnessed plenty of the abuse his father absorbed.
“Yeah, many times. He used to take us to Six Nations, a reserve back home in Canada. The fans there are crazy. There’d be some guys hanging over the glass yelling at him,” Couture said. “My mom would tell us, ‘Just don’t say anything about your dad. Don’t say what your last name is.’
“We’d just have to sit there and go through that.”
Admittedly, it might have toughened him up and prepared him for life in the NHL.
“There was one time we were watching on TV and he was breaking up a fight and someone knocked him out with a punch,” Couture said. “It’s good for me to see it from their side, what they go through.”
So give him the car. Pick him last. He can take it.
“Yeah, I do (already have a car),” he said with a grin. “But someone else could use a new one that I know.”
On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane