October 5, 2015 By Paul Gackle

Rink Notes: Donskoi, DeMelo Land Spots On Sharks Opening Night Roster; Couture Gets A Letter

SAN JOSE — Logan Couture is often the most honest voice in the Sharks locker room and the team’s most competitive player on the ice. The decision to give him a letter seemed like a no brainer.

Couture received the first letter of his six-year NHL career on Monday, joining captain Joe Pavelski and alternate captain Joe Thornton in the Sharks first leadership group under head coach Peter DeBoer.

“He just competes,” Thornton said, referring to Couture. “He pushes guys and that’s what it takes to be a leader. He’s going to stand up in the locker room and say some things, but on the ice, he really shows how much leadership he brings to this organization.”

Among the mysterious elements of the Sharks decision to roll with four alternate captains last season was the absence of Couture in the leadership group. The 26-year-old is often the first player to criticize the team when it plays down to standards, and he backs up his words by playing tough hockey on a near-nightly basis, blocking shots, taking hits to make the right plays and searching for goals in the hard places.

In 2014-15, he was second on the team in points (67) and goals (27), and he’s a key player on both the power play and the penalty kill.

“Like I said before, I’m going to be the same person, same player I would have been if I didn’t have one,” Couture said. “It’s a letter on the jersey, but I’m just going to be the same person.”

After five-full seasons with the Sharks, Couture suggested that his leadership skills have evolved.

“The more time you spend in one place, the more time you’re around the same people, you get a little more comfortable. You learn how guys react to certain situations and you learn from guys that are leaders,” Couture said. “I’ve been lucky that I’ve played here with a lot of leaders, a lot of guys that have been around this league for a long time. A couple Hall of Fame players. I’ve tried to pick up little things from those guys throughout my time.”

Donskoi, DeMelo Land Roster Spots: Joonas Donskoi and Dylan DeMelo are one step closer to seeing their NHL dreams become a reality.

Head coach Peter DeBoer trimmed his roster by three players on Monday, which means Donskoi and DeMelo are both headed to Los Angeles for the Sharks season opener against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.

The Sharks coach sent Nikolay Goldobin, Mirco Mueller and Melker Karlsson to the Barracuda, cementing DeMelo and Donskoi’s spots on the team, at least for now.

“I didn’t think I’d get maybe some opportunities that were given to me in camp and I felt like I made the most of them and played hard,” DeMelo said. “I knew coming into this year, with a new coaching staff, everybody had a clean state. I kind of took that and just ran with it.”

The reassignment of Goldobin, Mueller and Karlsson to the Barracuda also appeared to secure opening night roster spots for Matt Tennyson, Barclay Goodrow and Chris Tierney, who were also considered to be on the bubble last week. But with the Barracuda next door, the Sharks could technically shuttle waiver-exempt players, like Goodrow, Tierney and Tennyson, back and forth as they see fit, so the current roster is hardly etched in stone.

Karlsson was sent to the Barracuda for the purpose of getting into game shape. His participation in training camp was limited to mostly non-contact drills because of a day-to-day injury.

Raffi Torres’ 41-game suspension for an illegal hit during the Sharks final preseason game also created an opening on the roster.

DeMelo earned his roster spot by playing smart-sound hockey on the blue line throughout the preseason.

“He’s the type of guy that sometimes you don’t notice him because he does everything well. He just makes the right play and he’s smooth,” Couture said. “He’s that type of defenseman: moves pucks, jumps up in plays, reads the rush really well. I think he’s going to help us.”

If DeMelo went unnoticed during the preseason, Donskoi landed his spot by making a big splash.

The 23-year-old Finn, who won the Jari Kurri Trophy last season awarded to the Finnish Liiga’s  playoff MVP, capitalized on every opportunity he received during training camp.

He posted three points during the Sharks Futures game with the Anaheim Ducks, scored a pair of goals in the team’s intrasquad scrimmage and he lit the lamp again after being promoted to the top line during a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes.

“He competes. He’s always around the puck. He’s a little bit like Karlsson,” Thornton said.

“He just competes hard. He’s always around the puck and it seems like always good players, the puck follows them, and that’s the case with him. The puck always seems to be around his stick.”

Donskoi said the opportunity to skate alongside Thornton and Pavelski in his NHL debut is “amazing”.

“Honestly, it wasn’t what I was expecting playing with those guys,” he said.

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