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2019 NHL Draft prospect profile: Alex Turcotte could become an elite centremen

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There aren’t many players who will be taken before the American in the first round.

Rena Laverty/USA Hockey

The elusive number-one center. It’s said that the way to acquire one is through the draft, as rare are the occasions when a trade or a free-agent acquisition nets you the golden piece around which to build a team. Organizations have to collect their chips and play the lottery, hoping the balls fall in their favour to give them a chance at such a prospect.

Alex Turcotte might not be a number-one-overall talent, but he arguably represents the best chance in the 2019 class after Jack Hughes to add a prospect with such a ceiling.

Birthplace: Island Lake, Illinois, USA
Date of birth: February 26, 2001
Shoots: Left
Position: Centre
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 185 lbs.
Team: U.S. National Team Development Program

Circumstances didn’t favour a great season from the centreman. He missed time due to an injury and on the biggest stage for prospects to prove themselves, the World Under-18 Championship, mononucleosis afflicted him. It makes his draft-year performance even more impressive in retrospect. His close to two-point-per-game pace with the USNTDP wasn’t surpassed by anyone other than Hughes, and Turcotte, contrary to his teammate, wasn’t always flanked with the most prolific goal-scorer in the history of the program in Cole Caufield.

EliteProspects

Few draft-eligible prospects could clam to play the game at the same intensity as Turcotte. His high motor is backed by a solid work ethic and understanding of the game. The centreman has the same care for his play on the defensive and offensive side of the ice. He drives the play on the attack, but as soon as possession is contested, he moves back in a sound defensive position, ready to track the puck back to his zone and help his defence.

He also reads passing lanes well and closes hard on his checks, tirelessly using his stick and body to separate the opposition from possession. The forward might only be 5’11”, but he can play the game with a physical edge.

The other element that fuels Turcotte’s two-way game is his skating. He is very quick and his wide stance gives him solid balance. The drawback of that stance is that it gives him less speed due to a shorter stride when he moves in a straight line. But considering Turcotte likes to rush up and down the ice with a prominent usage of crossovers, he still has more than enough momentum to burst past defenders when joining the attack.

He is just as agile a handler as he is a skater. He can open up and pivot, once again feet wide apart to help to protect, and he attacks defenders head-on to thread the puck through their skates.

Alex Turcotte wears #19 with the USNTDP

The first clip in the video above is especially impressive. He rushes from the wide lane, but he doesn’t continue along the wall. He crosses over to the the middle of the ice, brings the puck inside the stick and feet of a defender, then bounces off the check off the opponent and slides the puck behind him to Matthew Boldy for a scoring chance at the door-step.

There are other examples of Turcotte’s capabilities in the video: his explosive cutbacks, his abrupt change of direction, and his quick hands fending off multiple opposing stick in tight.

Off the rush, Turcotte is more of a playmaker, but when his team is established in the offensive zone, to find him you have to look around the net.

This is where a lot of goals are scored, and the centreman understands how to maximize his success. This season in the USNTDP, he was the net-front presence on their power play. He distinguished himself not really by superior strength or size, but with his ability to get first touch on rebounding pucks and slide to the back post, in position to be on the receiving end of the high-skill plays of his teammates.

Here’s a few sequences illustrating some aspects of Turcotte’s game: his reads, his patience in possession to wait for passing lanes to open, and how he works to steal pucks, find outlets and continuously get open around the net and the slot, pushing against defenders, circling high in the zone to escape his coverage.

Turcotte’s highlight reel will probably never be as long as some of his teammates; he isn’t as creative or as flashy. That being said, it’s very likely that he is the second player selected from the U.S Under-18 Developmental Program at the draft, due to the many elements of his play that will translate very well to the professional game. The centreman is effective because, all over the ice, he supports his teammates and makes plays that are conducive to enxtended possession.

From Mitch Brown’s CHL tracking project

It’s therefore no surprise just how well he scores on the shot rates in the advanced stats. He is at the top of the percentile for both Corsi for (ability to generate shot attempts) and Corsi against (ability to limit shot attempts). He also dominates almost all offensive categories, which speaks to his ability to be both a playmaker and scorer depending on the situation.

Rankings (not all rankings are final)

Button/TSN: #10
Dobber Prospects: #3
Elite Prospects: #6
Future Considerations: #5
Hockey Prospect: #4
McKenzie/TSN: #11
NHL Central Scouting: #4 (NA skaters)
Pronman/The Athletic: #3

Next year, Turcotte will play for the University of Wisconson. It will be interesting to see what he can do with (hopefully) a full, healthy year of hockey as one of the go-to guys in a program only getting stronger by recruiting from the U.S. team. The Badgers are also adding Cole Caufield to a team with one of the better defenceman in the NCAA last year’s 2018 NTDP class, K’Andre Miller.