Welcome to my new series, the Ontario Reign Recap. In this series, I will be highlighting four Los Angeles Kings prospects who played with the Ontario Reign during the 2020-21 season. I will be doing a deep dive into their seasons focusing on their progress and what areas of their game they still need to improve upon. Today’s article covers Alex Turcotte.
Alex Turcotte 2020-21 Season
Where He Started
Entering the year, Alex Turcotte had just come off of his freshman year season with the University of Wisconsin. Here he scored nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in 29 games played. While he had a solid season for Wisconsin, some had higher expectations of the former fifth overall pick. Specifically, some expected him to be slightly more productive on the offensive side of the puck. Turcotte’s play was still encouraging though, as he showed progress in other areas of his game. However, following the 2019-20 season, he and the Los Angeles Kings organization decided it would be best if he turned pro.
This decision would mean that Turcotte would be one of many high-profile Kings prospects to be penciled into the Ontario Reign lineup, as it was highly unlikely he’d earn a spot on the Kings out of training camp. Heading into the season with Ontario, Turcotte had a few areas of his game he needed to hone in on during his time in the AHL to improve his play. For starters, Turcotte needed to work on his scoring consistency. He was a bit of a streaky scorer and needed to learn to consistently make an impact.
Another area Turcotte needed to focus on was goal-scoring/ finishing ability. He himself noted that during his time with Wisconsin, he didn’t put the puck in the back of the net as much as he wanted to. During his time with the USNTDP, he was a reliable goal scorer, but ever since his goal totals have seemed to decrease. This could’ve been a result of stronger competition, or the fact that he wasn’t coupled with high-end playmakers such as Jack Hughes and Trevor Zegras anymore.
Alex Turcotte 2020-21 Season Overview
2020-21 was a season of ups and downs for Turcotte, but overall he made some very good progress in his development. To start off the year, there was a lot of excitement surrounding him, as fans were anxious to see what he would do with the Reign. The excitement would have to wait though, as Turcotte’s season got off to a slow start. He went through a bit of an adjustment period, going scoreless through his first five games. Then, after his fifth game, he suffered an injury that would sideline him for several weeks.
Upon returning from his injury though, Turcotte seemed like a new player. He would go on to score four points in his first five games coming back. Overall, Turcotte looked much more comfortable on the ice when he returned. Like many Ontario Reign players, Turcotte needed an adjustment period to get his game going. The step-up from NCAA hockey to AHL hockey is large, as he was going from an amateur league to a professional men’s league. Once he had some games under his belt though, the production continued for Turcotte, as he would end up finishing as Ontario’s fourth-highest scorer. His final line was six goals and 15 assists for a total of 21 points in 32 games. This gave him a points-per-game average of 0.66, good for second among Reign rookies.
Wasn’t Quite Ready
Turcotte was relied upon heavily by the Reign and coach John Wroblewski by the end of the season. His non-stop motor and well-rounded game made him one of the most efficient offensive drivers on his team. Although Turcotte had a great year in Ontario, he still did not receive a call-up to Los Angeles. This likely wasn’t due to his play, though. Having one of the top prospect pools in the NHL, the Kings needed to work in other, more NHL-ready prospects. Turcotte was still a viable call-up candidate, however.
After his draft year, people had high offensive expectations for Turcotte. He was one of the most productive players for the United States National Team Development Program and was expected to continue that offence at the University of Wisconsin. While he still had a good season with Wisconsin, his production did see a dip. His previous NHLe (NHL equivalency) value of 42 with the NTDP went down to a value of 28 after his freshman season. according to Byron Bader’s Hockey Prospecting model. This season, however, he saw an increase back up to 31. While he is not at the same level he was in his draft year, it is still a positive progression.
Adjusting to a Higher Level
Something that was very good to see from Turcotte was his ability to adjust to a tougher league. The fact that Turcotte was able to be a productive player as a 19/20-year-old rookie in a men’s professional league was a strong sign. He was handed heavy, top-six minutes, and was up for the challenge. Considering the fact that his offence didn’t quite meet expectations the season prior, the way he was able to be productive at the AHL is very encouraging.
Another area where Turcotte grew stronger was his versatility. It’s no secret that the Kings have a surplus of centres in their prospect pool. Especially after the 2021 draft, where they added two more centres in the second round: Francesco Pinelli and Samuel Helenius. With the number of centre prospects they have, the Kings are going to have to start converting some of them to the wing. They simply have too many. The addition of Phillip Danault this offseason also creates even more of a log jam.
Due to this crowdedness at the position, the Reign experimented with moving some centres to the wing. One of the players they tried was Alex Turcotte. He saw a lot of time at wing this season and is slowly becoming more comfortable with it. A line that ended up working together quite well was: Alex Turcotte flanked on the left wing, Quinton Byfield down the middle, and Arthur Kaliyev on the right. With Turcotte becoming comfortable on the wing, it just provides Los Angeles with more options.
What Still Needs Work
A theme with all of the players highlighted in this series so far is consistency. Like Kupari and Byfield, Turcotte can be a productive, reliable scorer, but he needs to find a way to not be streaky. He didn’t struggle with this all too much this season, but he could certainly benefit from it. When watching him this year, there were games where he looked dominant and games where he was hard to notice. To meet his full potential, he needs to eliminate those hard-to-notice games and replace them with more dominant ones.
While it’s not a pressing issue, Alex Turcotte could still benefit from getting a little bit stronger. There were times this season where he seemed to get out-muscled in some battles. Adding on some strength and muscle could help Turcotte with this, especially when he comes up to the NHL. Given Turcotte’s style of play, where he likes to be all over the ice in all three zones, adding strength should help him become a reliable two-way player at the NHL level. It will help him win more battles, and gain important positioning on both ends of the ice.
Although it is something he for the most part can’t control, Alex Turcotte needs to stay healthy. He is in the important development years of his career, and missing time due to injury is only hurting him. F0r the past several seasons now, he has missed fairly significant time with injuries. For him to reach his full potential and be and even if he does reach it, he is going to want to be healthy as much as possible.
Overall, 2020-21 was a strong season for Turcotte. He showed good progress in his ability to produce at a higher level, and ability to drive play. He also learned a valuable skill of being able to slide over to the wing if needed, which it very likely could be. While he still has some areas to improve upon, Turcotte is starting to slowly look like a more complete, NHL-ready player.
Due to the situation with Los Angeles’ roster, Turcotte likely won’t be given a regular spot on the Kings, but will more likely spend some more time with the Reign. He will be given a chance to make the NHL roster out of camp, but he is going to have a lot of high-end competition. Even if he doesn’t make the Kings right out the gate, he should be one of the first players from Ontario to receive a call-up.