Sharks

Sharks

Depending on the final voting results for the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, the Sharks can do something they've never done before.

If center Logan Couture is voted in by fans as the Pacific Division's "Last Man In," San Jose will have four representatives at its first hometown All-Star Game since 1997. That would be the most in franchise history, and would ensure the Sharks have more All-Stars than any other team at this year's midseason exhibition -- barring any last-minute injury replacements and/or players skipping out on the game entirely. 

Well, other than Alex Ovechkin.

Forward Joe Pavelski and defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson's entry into the game means the Sharks have matched their previous high, which is a total they've reached four times (2002, 2007, 2009, 2017) before. If Couture's going to join them, he'll do so in a bit of anomalous season. 

Couture's 41 points are the most of his career after 42 games, but so are his 26 assists. That's one off of his total from each of the last two seasons, and only 14 away from his career best. Yet Couture is known more as goal-scorer, having scored 20 goals in all but one season since 2010-11. 

This year, he's racking up points as a set-up man. He is picking up primary assists at a higher rate 5-on-5 (0.95 per hour, according to Natural Stat Trick) than any other season in his career, and all but one on the power play (2.1 per hour).  The 30-year-old is picking up 5-on-5 secondary assists at a career-high rate (0.62 per hour), too, but not on the power play (1.57 per hour, fifth-highest).

 

The former number is buoyed by what would be a career-high on-ice shooting percentage at 5-on-5 (11.8 percent), which is certain to regress. But, it's not entirely unearned. With Couture on the ice, the Sharks are generating scoring chances at a higher rate (30.58 per hour) than all but two of his previous seasons, and more high-danger chances (12.49 per hour) than all but one. 

All told, that's helped Couture mitigate declining shot rates -- he has shot at a lower rate 5-on-5 than the previous season in each of the last four years -- and continue to produce. Converting on over 18 percent of his shots on the power play and 5-on-5 undoubtedly has, too, but Couture's continued production as a passer will be important for the Sharks moving forward. He turns 30 in March, and enters the first season of an eight-year extension in 2019-20. 

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In the immediate future, Couture will face stiff competition to nab the Pacific's final spot. Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl ended Thursday tied for ninth in points (51), while Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano was tied for third in points among blue-liners (39). Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser was an All-Star last season, as was Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar. Still, Couture has more points than any of his competitors -- save for Draisaitl -- and San Jose hosting the All-Star Game could give him a boost at the ballot box by the time voting concludes on Jan. 10 at 11:59 p.m. ET.