Alex Turcotte was drafted as a versatile, do-it-all forward with high-level hockey sense and an ability to play in all situations, on both ends of the ice.
Still carrying all of those traits, it’s this season that things have come together for Turcotte.
Showcasing his combination of the aforementioned skills, along with his new look, Turcotte is starting to impact games at the AHL level in the way that everyone felt he was capable of when he joined the organization. At just 22 years old, Turcotte has not had an easy road since he heard name called in the 2019 NHL Draft. Having dealt with several separate setbacks due to injury since turning pro in 2020, Turcotte has faced adversity on and off the ice.
Now in his fourth professional season, Turcotte has yet to play more than 36 games in a season due to injury.
That said, this season is different for Turcotte. Having spent every previous professional offseason prior to this past one rehabbing injuries, Turcotte credits a full summer of focusing on improving his game for the reason he’s out to an impressive start. His first healthy summer is already paying dividends.
“This offseason was a lot better than the last few years,” he said. “I’m healthy. This offseason I was able to start training really early, like mid-May. I didn’t really take too much time off, only about two weeks after last season ended, and I just got right into it. I had no problems and was able to put on a good amount of weight and muscle, which is new for me. I had no ailing problems [this summer] and was able to start skating fairly early as well. I actually got to work on my game, which was nice compared to the summers before when I really didn’t get to train much at all.”
It can’t be understated how important the offseason is for young professional hockey players, Turcotte included.
After seasons end, the summer provides the younger players and bright-future prospects an opportunity to take the lessons they learned during the season, and the feedback they’ve received, and implement it into their respective games. Whether it be skillset based, strategic or through physical growth, every player has certain things they need to improve on to continue to grow their games. For Turcotte, he hadn’t had the opportunity to spend a summer focusing solely on improving his game until now. It’s been summers of rehabilitation and catching up to those around him in the health department.
More specifically, Turcotte’s injury history has ranged from multiple lower-body injuries, to a bout with appendicitis, to multiple concussions.
“Last offseason was really spotty for me as I had concussion symptoms and things like that. I was on and off the ice sporadically and eventually it got to the point where I just wasn’t even training,” Turcotte explained. “But these past two summers couldn’t be further from each other. I’m happy now, I had a good summer.”
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) November 5, 2023
Looking back at the summer that was, Turcotte identified that his biggest success was his ability to mature physically and add weight, strength and muscle. Having gone from a playing weight of 185 pounds last season to 195 this fall, Turcotte has beefed up……but it wasn’t easy to get there…
“It was definitely a challenging this summer physically,” he said. “Putting on that weight and the training was obviously pretty hard to maintain with all that eating of calories and that sort of thing. So, you’ve got that aspect. Then, once I put it on and was skating with my new weight it feels kind of awkward, like you feel kind of uncoordinated at times and maybe slower than you normally do.”
What Turcotte went through this past summer is exactly what Quinton Byfield experienced in the 2022 offseason, when the 6–5 forward added 15 pounds to his playing weight. Byfield then echoed Turcotte’s comments then as well, on what it’s done to help his game.
Current Head Coach of the Ontario Reign Marco Sturm beamed about the difference that Turcotte’s size has made post practice earlier this month.
“I think the biggest thing [for Turcotte] was that he came back a little different this summer,” Sturm said of his centerman. “That means he’s a little bigger, he’s put on some weight and muscle. So automatically he looks stronger and is stronger on the ice. He’s been really good for us so far.”
The effort and time that it takes to add a substantial amount of weight and continue to improve on your game itself is not easy feat.
Difficult but rewarding, Turcotte’s new playing weight is beneficial in more ways than one. Now more confident in successfully being able to play his game, the aggressive and unafraid Turcotte is able to handle the opposition in the defensive zone while defending, on the forecheck and protecting the puck or himself to name a few. He’s got the offensive side of his game, but Turcotte is about more than just point production. With the work he’s put in, the results have been apparent.
“I just feel like I have more endurance and am much more durable from the weight,” he said. “Sometimes maybe I was a little too light in the past for the way I play where my body would just get really gassed, get tired, and that probably led to some small injuries and things like that. The coaching staff told me they want to see some longer shifts for me this year and obviously to put on size and I think I’ve done both. I’m really happy with the chance that I have and just trying to build off of that.”
With 10 points through the first 13 games of the AHL season, Turcotte ranks third on the Reign in scoring (2-8-10), second in assists. Playing in all situations for the Reign, Turcotte has provided a stable expectation for his bench boss.
“For me, he’s very, very consistent, so that means wherever we are in the game, doesn’t matter which period, which game, what the score is, if he’s playing against the top line or not, he always plays the same,” Sturm added. “That really helps me as a coach to put him out there and we need guys like that. I think the biggest challenge for those young kids is consistency, but he has that gift to be to be consistent. Yes, he has his moments, but overall, he’s very consistent. That’s why he’s so good for our team and me as a coach.”
The beginning of the 2023-24 season is off to a good start for Turcotte, but it’s been well documented within the Kings world that it hasn’t always been that way.
The Elk Grove native has played in 12 NHL games over the last two seasons, but he’s also dealt with a lot of negatives as well. As a first-round draft pick, and a high one at that, expectations and pressure come with the sought after opportunity. The self-aware Turcotte knows about the outside noise and what the narrative is surrounding the start of his career. Strong mentally, Turcotte has found lessons and is grateful for the adversity he’s now overcome.
“It’s obviously been a tough couple of years, I’m not where I thought I’d be at this point,” he admitted. “I know a lot of other people think that too, but it’s part of the way it goes. Sometimes it’s not always going to be super easy. I’ve had to learn some hard lessons and deal with a lot of adversity early on, but I’m honestly pretty grateful for it, especially now that I’m healthy and the best should follow with where I’m at as far as my game goes. I’ve learned a lot. I think most that’s behind me for sure. I’m just having fun and I know I’m going get to get there [the NHL] and do the best I can. I’ll prove a lot of people wrong.”
go to the front of the net ✅
score ✅ pic.twitter.com/U78oQ3iW7q
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) October 15, 2023
Often times we lose sight on how much pressure young players and top prospects have to deal with, especially when things don’t go as expected. Continuing to fight, battle and ignore the outside noise, Turcotte has the respect of Sturm.
Sturm was also a first-round draft pick in the 1996 NHL Draft and knows much of the pressure that Turcotte has dealt with.
“Things haven’t been easy for him, everyone has a different path once they’re drafted,” Sturm said. “I had a different path than he did, everyone is different, but of course by now he probably wanted to be in the NHL and he isn’t, but that’s totally fine too. That’s what I’ve tried to explain to him. With all these injuries and all the setbacks he’s had, it’s not easy what he’s dealt with. Every concussion, every setback you have, it screws up your mental part of the game, but I feel like this year, it’s the first time I see it happening for him and that’s a big step.”
It’s not just Sturm in the Kings organization who is seeing the process come together.
Sturm explained and shared that he knows the Kings organization still believes in Turcotte, noting the opportunity to go with the main group to Australia this fall as a part of NHL training camp. He has heard from others who feel Turcotte had a strong camp, which he’s now carried over into the season. The key now, with an NHL lineup that has been relatively consistent, is patience.
Focusing on the here and now, Turcotte is taking his experience from the past few years and is embracing the present. His sights are set high but he understands the process and the situation he is in because of his injury-riddled past. The most important thing for Turcotte remains ice time and health.
“My goal is to be up in the NHL and not just be there, but to contribute,” he said. “I truly believe I can do that, but as of now, just playing every game, it’s not worrying about where I’m going end up in two weeks or two months. I’ve got great teammates [with the Reign], we’re having fun and we’re winning. If I could play every game this year wherever I’m called upon to play, and I’m healthy, that’s probably the biggest thing. Just giving it my all in every game possible.”
Good signs, so far, on that front.