Kings Recall Akil Thomas from AHL-Ontario, Alex Turcotte to LTIR

The LA Kings have recalled forward Aki Thomas from the AHL’s Ontario Reign. Additionally, the team has placed forward Alex Turcotte on long-term injured reserve (LTIR).

Thomas was a late scratch yesterday for the Reign, after the Kings learned that forward Phillip Danault could miss out on yesterday evening’s game with the Kings in Calgary. With Danault out, the Kings had just 11 healthy forwards and turned back to the 11F / 7D alignment out of necessity, with Jacob Moverare checking in as one of 18 available skaters. Thomas will now join the team as it travels to Winnipeg to close out the four-game trip, after he linked up with the team following yesterday’s loss against the Flames.

For Turcotte, he has been out of action for the last 12 days, since he left the team’s game on March 19 with an injury. Turcotte was labeled as “day-to-day” and did not join the team on their Western Canada swing over the last week. With the LTIR designation, Turcotte will be out of action until at least the second week of April, as he fulfills the minimum amount of time required with being on LTIR.

Thomas will wear number 41 with the Kings.

Instant Analysis
For Thomas, it’s a well-deserved recall from the AHL.

After dealing with his share of injury trouble over his first three seasons as a professional, Thomas has finally put it all together in 2023-24. He ranks fourth on the Reign in overall scoring and is one of just two players on the team with both 20 goals and 20 assists, while his nine game-winning goals lead the entire AHL. While he’s impressed offensively, with his production, including a highlight-reel goal just last week on a spin-o-rama in overtime, it’ll take more than just gaudy totals for him to succeed in the NHL. Looking at where the Kings are at, it’s not a top-line role that’s likely available for a player coming up from the AHL. Shouldn’t be an issue for Thomas, who has rounded out his 200-foot game, while continuing to bring an element of sandpaper, responsibility and leadership on top of his breakout campaign offensively.

For younger players who were stars in junior or college hockey, as Thomas was, it doesn’t always come right away. Ontario Head Coach Marco Sturm noted that over the last couple of seasons, when Thomas was limited to just 53 total games, he challenged Thomas to get outside of his comfort zone when it came to leadership, grit, passion and all of those other things a player needs to do well to succeed at the NHL level. He felt that Thomas wasn’t quite ready to do that as recently as last year, but that’s certainly changed in a big way over the last 12 months.

“This year, it’s totally different,” Sturm continued. “I give him a lot of credit. We’ve been addressing it. I’ve been talking to him a lot. He’s one of those guys that wants to hear the truth and that’s what I’ve given him all year long. As long as he answers the bell every night, I’m really happy. Hopefully, if he keeps going like this, he’ll get a crack with the Kings.”

Get a crack with the Kings, indeed.

Sturm lauded Thomas as a “leader” this season for the Reign, noting that his play has been “outstanding all season long”. More on his play with Ontario HERE from Jared Shafran from earlier in the week. With the high caliber of overall play reached, Thomas now has his sights set on playing NHL games. It might come tomorrow, it might not. Coming off a performance in Calgary the team was not thrilled with, plus the uncertain status of Danault, the Kings might fancy a change, whether it be back to the 12/6 alignment or simply a personnel swap up front. With Thomas now linked up with the group, he’s an option to play in Winnipeg in what would be a well-deserved NHL debut. Onto tomorrow we wait on that front.

Regarding Turcotte, it’s another bad-luck injury at a time in the season when he would otherwise likely be playing meaningful games. While he had just four points (1-3-4) from 20 games, Turcotte had a +5 rating and he started to establish himself as a high-energy player with the Kings, capable of holding his own in a bottom-six role or filling in higher in the lineup when needed and not looking out of place in doing it. His injury will likely cost him the bulk of the remainder of the regular season, on top of the five games he’s already missed. With Carl Grundstrom close to coming back as well, the Kings might not have the cap space to keep Turcotte with the big club when he is ready to return, though we can’t predict how things will shake out over the next two weeks, plus he could re-join the team in the playoffs. Turcotte could also see some time with Ontario, with the Reign having locked up a postseason berth. Turcotte is eligible to play in the playoffs with either team. Remains to be seen, but today’s roster move provides us with a clearer update on his status for at least the next couple of weeks.

From the team’s official release –

Thomas, 24, has registered 43 points (22-21=43) in 61 games with the Reign this season, setting career highs in goals, assists and points. He is one of three Reign skaters to hit the 20-goal mark this season while his 43 points place fourth on the team. The 6-0, 195-pound forward earned AHL Player of the Week honors for the period ending March 24, 2024, notching four goals, two assists and a plus-6 rating while recording all three game-winning goals during the Reign’s perfect 3-0-0 week. Thomas leads all AHL skaters with nine game-winning goals. 

Originally selected by the Kings in the second round (51st overall) of the 2018 NHL Draft, Thomas has skated in 154 career games across four seasons with the Reign, accumulating 46 goals and 44 assists for 90 points (46-44=90). Thomas’ first career recall comes on the heels of a four-game goal streak with five goals and seven points (5-2=7) in his last four games, dating back to March 20.

Prior to turning pro, the Toronto, Ontario native played four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), recording 315 points (105-210=315) in 241 career games with the Niagara IceDogs (where he served as captain during the 2019-20 season) and Peterborough Petes. Thomas has represented Canada at three IIHF events, including one IIHF World Junior Championship (2020 – gold), where he scored the game-winner against Russia, and two IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championships (2017 and 2018). 

For today, the Kings are on their way to Winnipeg here this afternoon. No practice on the travel day, with a full-team skate expected tomorrow morning from Manitoba. Have a few more things to add here over the next couple of days, including coverage of tomorrow’s game against the Jets, as the Kings look to bounce back from a disappointing performance last night in Calgary.

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