Logan Couture saw this coming for Jake Middleton. Before any of us, he knew the defenseman would be someone who was going to help the San Jose Sharks.
Yesterday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun identified the 6-foot-4 Middleton as an “old-school physical” defenseman that the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, and Tampa Bay Lightning were looking hard at — San Jose Hockey Now’s sources also assessed his league-wide value here.
This morning, Logan Couture echoed LeBrun’s assessment of Middleton, mentioning his old-school style of play.
“He plays hard, tough, and will fight anyone, do anything for his teammates,” the San Jose Sharks captain related. “Those are guys that you really want to keep in an organization. It’s why other teams want him.”
Consider where Middleton was last season – or in each of the last five seasons.
In Oct. 2016, the San Jose Barracuda picked Middleton up after the Los Angeles Kings, who drafted him with the very last pick of the 2014 Draft, relinquished his rights. Within a year, the San Jose Sharks signed him, but he was still more of a depth defenseman than anything: From 2016-17 to last year, the 26-year-old suited up for 228 AHL games as opposed to 14 NHL contests.
But summer of 2020, Couture saw a different Middleton in on-the-ice scrimmages. Middleton stayed in San Jose during that long stretch of time in the middle of COVID, training and skating, and came back ready to impress.
“A lot of us were like, wow, this guy’s made a lot of improvements,” Couture said. “Playing the NHL, he can be a good NHL player. He didn’t get that opportunity last season.”
However, Couture noticed that Middleton didn’t let the lack of time in the NHL get him down.
“He continued to work. This summer again, he was impressive [when he] came into camp and is running with his opportunities.
The captain is not wrong. Middleton was paired with Erik Karlsson to start training camp, and he hasn’t looked back. The future Hall of Famer has been effusive in his praise of his partner all year, and San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner added to the chorus today.
“I love the way he’s sort of a homegrown product here,” the bench boss pointed out. “Playing with the Barracuda for a few years and finding his way to get some games up and down, battling through some injuries over the years. Finally, being able to say he’s a bonafide NHL defenseman, he really is.”
Boughner knows why teams are looking at Middleton as a trade target, and it sounds like he’s on the same page as both LeBrun and Couture.
“I think he’d helped a lot of teams, especially in playoffs and seven-game rounds. They need that grit, and he provides that part of the game, but he also has come a long way in his puck movement, his defending, and all those things,” he said.
With the trade rumors out there, Boughner shared thoughts on what he thinks should happen with Middleton as we close in on the trade deadline.
“For my own selfish reasons, I hope we keep him because I think he’s a great presence in the locker room,” he said. “I think he brings us a real honest game and a gritty game, and I think he’s just going to get better.”
Sheng’s Travel Fund
Help fund Sheng's travel! Every dollar goes to the cost of getting to and from Sharks road games.