Dan Turple fills a net like very few goaltenders can.
A sixth round draft choice of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2004, the 6’6, 230 pound native of Hamilton, Ontario, has paid his dues for four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, first for the Kingston Frontenacs, then the Oshawa Generals and finally for his current squad, the Kitchener Rangers.
Not surprisingly, the opportunity to play for a winning organization in Kitchener has given Turple the chance to post some gaudy stats after playing with the lower tier Frontenacs and Generals. In 40 games with Kitchener last season, he posted a 2.36 goals against average with a .916 save percentage and has followed that up with a 2.46 average with a .918 save percentage this season through 38 games.
Despite his size, Turple is surprisingly agile and uses a quick glove hand to complement the obvious benefits that his size provides. According to Steve Spott, Kitchener’s Assistant General Manager and Associate Head Coach, Turple’s more than just a big body in net.
“Dan is a butterfly goaltender whose obvious No. 1 strength is his size,” said Spott. “He is very quick and his ability to make the big saves at crucial times in the game is what separates Dan from other goaltenders at this level. He’s very calm and poised in the net and is very confident. He’s currently working on his puck handling and his off-ice conditioning and stretching program.”
Turple’s also developed a reputation at each of his stops for his off-ice contributions as a team leader as well as a player who gets involved in the local community.
“He is a natural leader on our team,” continued Spott. “He is not a vocal guy in the locker room, but leads by example.”
Kitchener rookie goaltender Mark Packwood has been the recipient this season of Turple’s wealth of experience.
“Mark really looks up to Dan,” said Spott. “He knows Dan has been to two NHL camps and has had a ton of experience at this level. They are roommates on the road and have a great rapport with each other. We’re lucky as coaches that Dan has been such a positive mentor for Mark.”
Hockey’s Future caught up with Turple after a recent Ranger road game in Windsor to discuss a variety of subjects.
HF: How would you describe yourself technically as a goaltender?
DT: I consider myself a butterfly goalie but I also make a lot of reaction saves. I don’t just drop into a butterfly every shot.
HF: Could you compare your individual level of play this year to previous years?
DT: This year I got off to a strong start and have continued it into the second half. In the past, I would start off slow and turn it on in the second half. I’ve been more consistent this year.
HF: Could you comment on your team’s battle for the conference title?
DT: We’re in a very tight race with Guelph and London for the conference title. We have to go out every night and win or else we’ll fall behind and London and Guelph will inch closer to us. We can’t lose to teams we should beat.
HF: In Windsor tonight, you played in a small rink with very shallow corners. How much do rink size and proportions affect you as a goaltender?
DT: In a rink like Windsor, it is very easy to lose your angles. You have to be more patient in small rinks because one tiny mistake on an angle can result in the entire net being exposed. Belleville is also a tough rink to play in because it is so big. There, you have to push more than you would in a normal rink.
HF: Your stat line has been markedly better in Kitchener than with your two previous OHL teams. How much of that is related to having a better team in front of you and how much is related to playing better because the games have greater meaning with a better team?
DT: I think it’s a combination of a great defensive core in front of me and how I’m playing individually. Some nights I bail us out but on other nights the defense bails me out. When we’re both playing well on a given night, it is very hard to beat us especially with the level of skilled forwards on our team.
HF: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a 6’6 goaltender (the height factor)?
DT: The main advantage of my height is being able to make saves that smaller goalies physically can’t. Shots that hit me in the shoulders when I butterfly would most likely go in on a smaller goalie. A disadvantage would be the holes I can create. I can sometimes give a shooter a lot to shoot at if I open up.
HF: You came back to Kitchener for your overage year. Did you have other options and has it been the right decision?
DT: I believe I could have moved on if it wasn’t for my shoulder surgery over the summer. Many wanted to see how it would hold up over a full season. I believe it was the right decision to stay in junior one more season especially playing for an organization like Kitchener. We have a very good chance at the Memorial Cup this year so an experience like that would be great for my career.
HF: Could you comment on mentoring the younger goaltender on your team, Mark Packwood?
DT: Mark is going to be a great goalie in this league. He has great position and had been excellent in the games he has played this season. I believe he will step in over the next couple of years and compete as one of the top goalies in the league.
HF: Could you talk about the experience of attending Atlanta’s rookie camp and how it benefited you?
DT: I attended Atlanta’s rookie camp two years ago. It was a very tough week and opened my eyes to the hard work that needs to be done to make it there. This past summer, Atlanta entered the rookie tournament. I feel I played very well there and could excel against that caliber of players.
HF: How do you feel about playing for an organization whose top prospect (Kari Lehtonen) is someone who plays the same position as you?
DT: Kari is an amazing goaltender but it doesn’t discourage me. I’m confident in my abilities to play at that level regardless of who is there ahead of me.
HF: Do you have any plans or goals for where you’ll play next season?
DT: My goal is to play for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. I believe I am ready for the jump and I hope to be able to do that next season.
HF: You’re the oldest guy on your team (Kitchener). How easy or difficult is it for a goaltender to fill a leadership role on the ice?
I don’t talk much in the dressing room before the game. I think I lead on the ice more than off. I just go out and try to have fun every game. In most cases, if I’m having fun, the rest of the team is too.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.