At one time, the LA Kings had one of the thinnest prospect pools in the National Hockey League. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, the franchise traded many prospects, and draft picks to keep their contending window open. It did not work, as the Kings became regulars in the draft lottery without a stream of young talent to replace their aging veterans. After they last lifted Lord Stanley’s chalice, the team would take until this season to win a playoff game. The fall from grace had been a long one.
There was, however, a silver lining to all of the losing. Finishing near the bottom of the standings for several seasons allowed the Kings to accumulate several high draft picks. Couple this with the trades of key players from the cup teams like Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Alec Martinez, among others, and the LA Kings suddenly found themselves bursting at the seams with young high-end talent.
The 2019 NHL Entry Draft was hyped as one of the best and deepest drafts in quite some time. The United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) was the show’s star at this draft, as eight of its players were drafted in the first round alone – including the number one overall pick Jack Hughes. With the number five pick, the Kings selected the second of the USNTDP first-rounders that night in center Alex Turcotte.
After donning a Kings jersey and cap at the draft, Turcotte headed to the University of Wisconsin to play for Badgers head coach and former King Tony Granato. Turcotte had a good season for Wisconsin, posting nine goals and seventeen assists in twenty-nine games. His season could have been even better had he not missed playing time due to injuries and illness, but there were signs that Turcotte was on his way to becoming a productive NHL player one day.
Amid the uncertainty created by the covid pandemic that began in March of 2020, Turcotte decided to leave the University of Wisconsin after his freshman season and turn professional. He was set to debut for the Kings American Hockey League affiliate, the Ontario Reign, but the pandemic forced the AHL to delay the start of the 2020-21 season. The season did not start until February 5th, 2021, which for Turcotte meant he had gone almost a year without playing an actual game – not ideal for a young player’s development. To make matters worse, Turcotte was injured almost immediately after the season started, and he missed eight of the Reign’s forty games that season.
Fortunately, the pandemic did not have the devastating effect on the 2021-22 AHL season that it did on the previous edition. With an entire season on deck, hope sprang eternal that this would be the season that Alex Turcotte showed the hockey world why the Kings took him with the fifth overall pick. Instead, injuries once decimated his season, limiting him to thirty-two of the Reign’s sixty-eight games – although he did manage to get eight games in with the LA Kings during the season. A major concern sprung up among the lengthy list Turcotte has endured as his 2021-22 season was ended by the second concussion of his career. Suffering two concussions is a major detriment to anyone’s career, but it is especially alarming when that player is only twenty-one years old like Turcotte is.
|2017-18||U.S. National Under-17 Team||Exhibition||19||8||17||25||4||9|
|2017-18||U.S. National Under-18 Team||Exhibition||8||2||4||6||4||5|
|2017-18||U.S. National Under-17 Team||USHL||20||7||15||22||10||5||—||—||—||—||—|
|2017-18||U.S. National Under-18 Team||USHL||11||1||9||10||4||8||—||—||—||—||—|
|2018-19||U.S. National Under-18 Team||Exhibition||21||15||13||28||8||6|
|2018-19||U.S. National Under-18 Team||USHL||16||12||22||34||14||27||—||—||—||—||—|
|2019-20||U. of Wisconsin||Big-10||29||9||17||26||20||-10|
|2021-22||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||8||0||0||0||2||0||—||—||—||—||—|
So it seems Alex Turcotte cannot escape the injury bug that has haunted him in his career. Turcotte cannot be blamed for his horrible luck injury-wise, but it is affecting his career all the same. He is the only player other than goaltender Spencer Knight from the first twenty picks in the 2019 draft that has yet to register an NHL point.
Also working against Turcotte is the Kings have a plethora of young talent and prospects at forward battling for a minimal amount of spots in Los Angeles. With the acquisition of Kevin Fiala, it looks like the top six are set, and the likes of Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, and Gabriel Vilardi (all former first-round or high second-round picks) will be competing with Turcotte for regular spots in the bottom six. Byfield, Kaliyev, Kupari, and Vilardi are all further ahead in their developments than Turcotte is of his at this point, making Turcotte’s situation much more difficult.
Assuming Turcotte is cleared to start the 2022-23 season after having last season end due to the concussion, the good news is Turcotte is still waiver except – meaning he can be sent back to Ontario without risking him getting claimed by another team. While it is unlikely that he will start the season in Los Angeles, Turcotte has an opportunity to play a key role for the Reign – assuming he stays healthy. 2022-23 will be his fourth season since getting drafted, so time is becoming a factor in his professional trajectory. A big season in Ontario will put to rest a lot of skepticism that Turcotte was worth a number five overall pick and put him on the fast track to a spot in the LA Kings lineup.