2019 Draft Profile: Alex Turcotte
It may not be Hughes, but the Red Wings are potentially in a position to land the best two-way center of the 2019 draft class
Well, that sucked. Not only did the Wings fall two spots in the draft, their most hated rivals ended up getting the 3rd overall pick. While a lot of people may be doom and gloom about that, there are a lot of very good prospects that will be available at 6th overall, and the dropoff in talent from 3rd-6th is nowhere near as sharp as it is from 2nd to 3rd. There's a good case to be made for at least 3 different players to be selected at 3rd overall, and it's not uncommon to hear other names thrown around in the top 3 like Cozens, or Dach. Long story short, there's a very high likelihood that someone who probably should be going in the top 5, or could even make a case for top 3, falls into the lap of the Red Wings. Over the next few months, I am going to try to cover at least 3 or 4 prospects who I believe the Red Wings could take at 6th overall, and why they would be a good fit for the Red Wings organization.
The first on my list, and probably my first choice if he is available is the US National Team Development Program’s Alex Turcotte. There may be people who disagree with me on this, but I think Alex Turcotte should be in contention for the 3rd overall pick, and is one of those three names that I mentioned could be heard immediately after Kaapo Kakko. At the beginning of this season, Turcotte was in consideration for the 2nd overall pick in 2019, with outlets such as Future Considerations having him ranked as high as #2, behind only Jack Hughes. If he falls to 6th overall, there is no other prospect available that I am higher on.
As a bit of backstory, Alex Turcotte comes from a bit of professional pedigree. His father, Alfie Turcotte, was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens 17th overall in the 1983 NHL entry draft. While Alfie only appeared in 112 NHL games, he would end up having a professional career that spanned 16 years, playing in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the AHL, and the now-defunct IHL and WPHL. Hockey runs in Turcotte’s blood, and now the Island Lake, Illinois native is looking to stake out his own professional career.
Turcotte is someone who I have a great degree of familiarity with, and was one of the first prospects eligible in the 2019 draft that came onto my radar after hearing that he was in strong consideration for the 2nd overall pick for the OHL Priority Selection behind Jack Hughes. Had Turcotte and Hughes committed to playing in the OHL, they probably would have been selected 1st and 2nd overall by the Barrie Colts and Guelph Storm, respectively. But Turcotte opted to play for the USNTDP, aspiring to play college hockey with the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2019-2020 season.
Last season, Turcotte spent a large part of the year with the US National U17 team. After a rather impressive performance with the U17 team, Turcotte then received a permanent promotion to the U18 team, notching 16 points in 19 games with his stint with the U18s, and putting on an impressive showing at the U18s as a D-1 player. It was obvious from last season that the expectations for Turcotte were extremely high. As a result, many outlets had him as a top 3 pick at the start of the year, with some ranking him above even Kakko. The reason that he’s not as frequently mentioned so highly is because he experienced a major setback that caused him to miss a large part of the first half of this season, suffering a serious hip injury that sidelined him for a significant period of time. While other players were able to raise their draft stock over this season, he was stuck in the sidelines. But ever since Turcotte came back from injury, he has been without question the best player on the US National Team not named Jack Hughes, lighting the USHL up for 12 goals and 22 assists in 16 USHL games, and 23 goals and 30 assists in 30 additional games with the U18 team. Now, with the U18s underway this month, you can bet scouts from teams picking in the top 10 will be eagerly tracking what he can do. In this article, I will be discussing what makes Turcotte such an effective player, and what teams can expect from him should they draft him.
Name: Alex Turcotte
Date of Birth: February 26th, 2001
Birthplace: Island Lake, IL
Weight: 194 lbs
NHL comparable: Dylan Larkin
ISS Hockey: 6
Future Considerations: 9
McKeen’s Hockey: 9
NHL CSS: 4 (North American skaters)
TSN/Bob McKenzie: 11
Craig Button: 8
Steve Kournianos/The Draft Analyst: 5 (April Rankings)
I am going to discuss Alex Turcotte’s game across the following eight categories: skating, passing, shooting, stickhandling, forechecking, defensive game, physicality, and finally, intangibles and competitiveness.
Turcotte is a very strong skater that possesses good balance that gives him a lot of leverage when he’s protecting the puck in stride. His first step from a standstill is powerful, and gives him high-end acceleration. His top speed is very good, but what is most impressive about his skating abilities is how quickly he can change gears, adding an element of unpredictability to his movements. He also possesses a nonstop motor, always keeps his feet moving, and is constantly making his presence on the ice felt every single shift. In my viewings of Turcotte, he plays a strong transitional game, and can reliably create routes for himself with the puck when exiting his defensive zone, or finding a route to skate with the puck cleanly into the offensive zone. Turcotte’s edgework is good, but is not as dynamic as his North-South movement. More often than not, he will rely on his straight-line speed and stickhandling abilities to beat defenders, when he could benefit more from creating space using sharper changes of direction and quicker East-West movement.
Turcotte’s game is largely centered around his ability to make plays happen for his teammates, and, above all else, is more of a pass-first player. Turcotte plays with his head on a swivel in the offensive zone at all times, demonstrating impressive patience and ability to maintain possession of the puck while working to create a seam in the ice to deliver the puck to his linemates. Turcotte can reliably get the puck on the tape, regardless of whether he’s moving at top speeds or is static, or whether or not he’s trying to move the puck through traffic on a saucer pass. Few players in this draft class rival Turcotte’s ability to make clean, precise passes while moving at the speeds that he moves. One criticism that I’ve seen from others, and it does align with my eye tests, is that he could do more to open up and create passing lanes by changing his angles, as he’s often not able to create a scoring chance and is forced to take a safer option instead. Regardless, Turcotte otherwise possesses exceptional vision, and is always looking to utilize his teammates on plays whenever he has the puck.
Turcotte will be the first to tell you that one of the biggest weaknesses of his game is his shot. This is something that he has openly acknowledged in interviews, and is something that he has actively worked to improve during last offseason. His work has definitely led to some improvements, but he will still need to work on its power, as he’s not likely to beat goaltenders cleanly from further distances on a consistent basis. Turcotte is currently able to compensate for this because he’s able to score from in close, but he’s not going to be a player that you use as a trigger option in the slot unless his shot goes through a drastic improvement. Thankfully, this is an easily fixable issue.
Turcotte possesses a very deft touch on the puck, and has excellent control of it, even when going at top speeds. While Turcotte is not an overly flashy player, he's able to beat defenders cleanly very often by using a nifty repertoire of toe drags, stutter steps and fakes to give himself an open lane to skate. Turcotte's puck control allows him to sustain possession down low in the offensive zone for extended periods of time, even under more intensive pressure. While Turcotte could gain some mustard on his shot, Turcotte can compensate for that because his hands in close are excellent, allowing him to finish plays in tight around the net. Turcotte also sports impressive hand-eye coordination, which is useful in creating deflections on goal.
Turcotte is a tenacious, decisive forechecker that can close gaps on defenders with a lot of speed, and has a knack for forcing defenders to make suboptimal decisions in their own zone. Turcotte also understands the options that defenders have on the breakout at a high level, and is good at taking passing options away from them. These traits often lead to turnovers from defenders, and sustained pressure in the offensive zone. He is never a passenger in the offensive zone, as his motor is unrelenting when trying to regain possession of the puck, or trying to sustain possession while battling down low. Turcotte will also fearlessly crash the net for rebounds, and doesn’t shy away from physical battles for space at the mouth of the goal.
Turcotte is quite possibly the best defensive forward slotted in the top 10, if not the entire draft. Part of what makes him so good in his defensive zone is his ability to read what play is developing in his own end, and finding the right position to be in at the moment to disrupt it. His positioning is stellar, as he looks to cover up lanes on a consistent basis, and his coverage on his man is extremely tight, exerting just as much effort in pursuit of the puck in his own zone as he does in the offensive zone. He uses his stick to great effect both on the pokecheck and when intercepting passes. Turcotte doesn’t shy away from getting into the dirty areas of the offensive zone, either, and is not a player that you would have to worry about cheating during breakouts. But perhaps his greatest asset on the defensive side of the puck is his transitional game. Once the puck is retrieved by either him or his teammate, he’s immediately thinking offense, and, as I mentioned, his ability to exit and enter zones with possession is of great use to him during transition. For these reasons, Turcotte is also outstanding on the penalty kill.
While Turcotte is not a physically imposing player, standing at only 5’11” and 194 lbs, Turcotte does not shy away from contact during physical battles for the puck, and is capable of handling physical play better than many offensive forwards, and is difficult to knock off of the puck. Turcotte plays a very in-your-face style of hockey, and while he’s not typically the player to throw the body around, he’s always in the mix of things.
Intangibles and Competitiveness
If I were to list the number of players who could match Turcotte’s intensity, drive, and competitiveness on a shift-by-shift basis available in this draft class, I would probably only need a single hand to count them. The only two players that come to mind that display the same level of tenacity and competitiveness are Peyton Krebs and Vasili Podkolzin. Turcotte has an infectious energy and drive about him that suggests that he is a prospect who, after being drafted, would be more than eager to work on addressing any of the shortcomings in his game, and is always willing to put in the work to become a better player. When you combine these attributes with his exceptional hockey sense, strong two-way play, and borderline elite playmaking abilities, Turcotte’s attitude and drive to compete could be the difference-maker in translating his game to the professional level.
Video Credit: bigwhite06 - YouTube
While there are arguably at least 3 or 4 candidates for the Wings to take at the 6th overall position, Turcotte’s play since coming back from injury has made it difficult for me to overlook him as my top choice for the Red Wings selection. With Bowen Byram (my would-be top choice) likely off the board by the time the Red Wings pick, there will still be a glut of high-end center prospects to choose from. Of these center prospects, I think Turcotte has set himself apart with his outstanding two-way play, hockey sense, and competitive drive. Turcotte would be a natural fit for the Red Wings, fitting the mold that this team has established over the passing decades. Drafting Turcotte would help to solidify a young, talented core of centers for years to come for the Wings. Should Turcotte be there sitting at 6th overall, you can bet Ken Holland Steve Yzerman and Tyler Wright have taken in eyefuls of him, and should be near the top of their list as well.