The British Columbia Hockey League isn’t known for producing top NHL prospects. When both Kris Chucko (CGY) and Travis Zajac (NJ) were taken in the top 25 of the 2004 Draft, it was the first time in well over a decade that a player was drafted straight out of the BCHL, though this was due mostly to the liberalization in draft eligibility for incoming NCAA freshmen. Before then, players put in a year in the NCAA before they were drafted — Paul Kariya is one who went on to be a first-round selection.
However, for the first time in league history, the BCHL has a prospect who is widely considered a legitimate top-15 pick. His name is Kyle Turris, and he is a 6’0, 165 lbs center who is playing his second season with the Burnaby Express, who took home the 2006 Royal Bank Cup last season. Turris truly burst on to the national scene in that tournament, scoring seven goals and six assists in the event, including a hat trick and an assist in a dominating 8-2 win.
Last season it was Turris’ teammate, Keith Seabrook (WSH), who carried the torch for the league, being selected late in the second round, 52nd overall. There is no question that Turris will be the top player representing the 2007 crop of BCHL talent come draft day and beyond.
Going in to Saturday night’s game against the newly-renamed Victoria Grizzlies, Turris had nine goals and two assists for eleven points in his team’s first six games of the season. The New Westminster native was credited with an assist during the game, but also clearly (and confirmed that he did indeed score it after the game) tapped in a goal on a frenzy in front of the net, but the goal was credited to Max Grassi and it does not appear that a correction will be made. Like all players, Turris says that he isn’t concerned about his personal stats, but did admit that he thinks he can sustain his torrid pace.
“I think I can, as long as I have my teammates with me and everybody is working towards the same goal, I’m sure everything will fall into place. But I’m not too worried about it.”
The first thing to notice is that he plays a tremendous amount for a forward. Express Head Coach Rick Lanz noted that the team was missing several key players for the game due to injury and suspension, including Turris’ regular linemates Tyler McNeely and Jovan Matic. That said, Turris played approximately 35-37 minutes in the game, including playing eight and a half consecutive minutes during a penalty-filled section of the second period.
When asked about the monster minutes he logged during the game, both Lanz and Turris laughed, with Turris simply stating: “I just try to help the team win any way I can. But if I get that opportunity, I better be doing something out there to help my team win. Hopefully I can put the puck in the net or something.”
Turris is a smooth skater with incredible vision and an uncanny ability to create scoring chances.
“I try to create scoring opportunities for my teammates and myself. I take pride in my defensive game as well,” Turris described himself simply.
Coach Lanz was far more flattering when it came to describing his young superstar.
“He’s very dynamic individual. He creates offensive situations basically from nothing. And that’s his ability to see the game, anticipate and he’s just got a brilliant mind for the game. Along with his athleticism, it’s a pretty amazing package.”
Turris is an effortless skater who has tremendous mobility and perhaps most importantly he has the ability to handle and control the puck while going full speed. While he is fast, he does not have blinding speed yet. But it’s clear from his stride and his very impressive mobility on the ice that he will be a speed demon once he builds up more leg strength and power in his lower body. He also has the ability to shift gears and catch opponents flat-flooted. Turris possesses very quick feet and handles the puck extremely well both in the open ice and under pressure. He plays the best when he has the puck on his stick, and can disappear a little bit when his team is unable to get control. He considers himself more of a creator, despite his high goal total early this season and the fact that he scored 36 goals and 36 assists last season.
“I like to do both, but I consider myself more of a playmaker. But I’m not afraid to put the puck in the net either.”
The biggest obstacle that the talented pivot has to overcome is his diminutive size, and he knows it.
“I think I need to get bigger and stronger. And obviously little things in my game that need to improve, but bigger and stronger is the big thing.”
He’s constantly working to gain strength as well, although he credits his team’s fitness consultant for most of the results.
“We have a good workout trainer here Mischa Polzin. He’s a great guy, puts us through our paces. But in the summers I go to Fitness 2000. I’m just taking the weight-gaining shakes and everything and just trying to get bigger and stronger.”
Coach Lanz believes that Turris’ commitment to improving the aspects of his game that most need work is one of the biggest indicators that the highly-touted forward is going to be a successful NHL player.
“He eats the right things; he carries supplements with him so he doesn’t get run down. That’s the sign of a pro mentality.”
The overwhelming majority of top 16-year-old hockey players in British Columbia choose to use the WHL as their conduit to fulfill their hockey dreams. So what made the shifty playmaker take the Junior “A” route?
“I think I need the extra couple of years to develop and get bigger and stronger and help my game grow. Either way is a win-win situation but I think the college route is the one for me.”
Not surprisingly, his coach thinks he made the right decision. “Absolutely. I think the college route is a legitimate option for some of these players. Kyle is a good example. He chose to stay and play in this league, follow his dream of education and that says a lot for the type of players that we (Express) attract. I think a lot of NHL teams almost in some cases prefer that the players stay and mature in a four-year program in the schools that they attend.”
There was some discussion after last season that Turris might make the move to the USHL, where the Lincoln Stars had previously selected him. However, Turris says that it was not even remotely considered an option. The Stars did try to get in touch with him a few times, and Turris says the two sides played phone tag a bit, but ended up not talking.
Next season will be suiting up for the 2006 National Champion University of Wisconsin Badgers, something Turris says he’s very excited about. In the meantime, despite the fact that scouts are following his every movement, Turris is doing his best to put it in the back of his mind.
“I’ve definitely known there are some scouts out there, and I’m just trying not to worry about it too much. Not worrying about it. I just play my game and let the chips fall where they’re gonna.”
Turris has drawn a lot of comparisons to Kariya, but that seems to be more due to the fact that they were both undersized, speedy forwards who decided to play in the BCHL than their styles. Coach Lanz has seen a lot of good players pass through the BCHL, and says that Turris is certainly one of the best. And he has somebody else in mind when it comes to comparisons.
“Well, yeah he’s amongst the best, no question. I had the chance to coach Scott Gomez and there are a lot of similarities between the two. In some cases I would say that maybe, at this time in their careers, I would say that Kyle is a little more dynamic than Gomez was,” acknowledged Lanz. “It’s just the level of talent that he brings to the table. He’s at the top, in this league, within his peers. His ability to play the game at a high level, and do the things he does, really separates him from his peers.”
As is the case with almost every player who plays in a Junior “A” or similar league, there are a broad view of opinions on where Turris will end up being chosen, with not everybody placing him in their top 15. His coach knows precisely how high he will go, though.
“He’ll be in the top ten. For sure.”
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.