Up-and-down season for Wisconsin’s TurrisKyle Turris says he has trouble remembering things, which is why he forgot an interviewer was waiting for him earlier this week and why he couldn’t remember the last time he scored a power-play goal on behalf of the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team.
By: By ANDY BAGGOT / The Wisconsin State Journal, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Kyle Turris says he has trouble remembering things, which is why he forgot an interviewer was waiting for him earlier this week and why he couldn’t remember the last time he scored a power-play goal on behalf of the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team.
The freshman center apologized for the personal oversight, but the statistical one made Turris think aloud as he reviewed the first five months of the season in his head.
“I don’t know,” he finally said. “Is it Robert Morris?”
“That is a long time ago,” Turris acknowledged, referring to the 92 shots on goal, 106 periods and 145 days that have come and gone since that first-period goal Oct. 20 at the Kohl Center.
Turris had a goal and three assists in that non-conference game, giving him five goals, seven assists, 12 points and a plus-four rating just four games into the season. That pace had everyone marveling at the scrawny teenager and his output.
“Kyle kind of gave us this wow look right away,” UW coach Mike Eaves said. “He was the talk of college hockey that first month,” said Tom Kurvers, the director of player personnel for the Phoenix Coyotes, the NHL team that drafted Turris third overall in 2007.
In the 28 games Turris has played for the Badgers since then, he shows a more modest 6-13-19 heading into Friday’s opening game of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association best-of-three playoff series at St. Cloud State.
Turris has 11-20-31 in 32 games overall, making him one of only eight freshmen in NCAA Division I to lead his school in scoring.
However, none of the other seven were top NHL draft picks like Turris, which is why his overall performance bears greater scrutiny.
That’s important now because Turris might be playing his final games at UW.
Multiple sources say they expect him to turn pro as soon as his season in Madison is done.
“There’s so many rumors going around it’s ridiculous,” Turris said. “I’m just playing hockey. I’m just so focused on our playoff run. I really haven’t thought about Phoenix at all.”
Eaves said any discussion with Turris about his future will take place after the season.
Bruce Turris, Kyle’s father, said he’s heard the speculation the Coyotes want to sign his only son after his freshman year, but said he’s not spoken with anyone from the organization.
“We’re very happy with his development at Wisconsin,” Bruce Turris said. “Kyle realizes his responsibility is to play the best he can for the Badgers.”
An 18-year-old from New Westminster, British Columbia, Turris will be the first to say that his rookie season in college has had a lot of distinctive curves.
“It’s been a learning year,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot.”
On the ice, he had a blazing start before getting a rough indoctrination to the WCHA.
Teams filled with older, stronger and edgier players have lined up his 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame for abuse. Kurvers was on hand at the Kohl Center in November when UW hosted North Dakota. He said the Fighting Sioux “went after” Turris, prompting a trend.
“I think the rest of the teams in the league have targeted Kyle and made his year in the WCHA a physical challenge,” said Kurvers, a Hobey Baker Award-winning defenseman at Minnesota-Duluth in 1984.
Kurvers said Turris hasn’t backed down, but that extra attention explains why “his numbers aren’t off the charts.”
Off the ice, Turris twice has battled prolonged illnesses tied to the fact he’s been advised him to have his tonsils removed this summer. He also has had to adjust to the demands of school and the issues that come with living on his own for the first time.
Eaves believes Turris — recently named the No. 2 NHL prospect, according to The Hockey News — got off to a great start because he had just come from helping Team Canada dominate an international challenge series against Russia.
“He got way ahead of the curve,” Eaves said. “He was already in game-playing condition.”
Turris had a similar performance jolt after the World Junior Championships, in which he helped Canada to the gold medal in early January. In the first seven games after his return, he showed 3-6-9. It’s a bit startling to see Turris, who leads the Badgers with 37 shots on goal on the power play, has been sitting on four man-advantage goals for 28 consecutive games.
“I guess I have to get more shots or put myself in a better position to shoot it,” he said. “It’s more about where he is and what his duties are,” Eaves said.
Eaves said Turris, routinely stationed at the left-wing boards, is a playmaker first and foremost who works off sophomore right winger Michael Davies out of the left corner.
“The more touches Kyle gets, the better off we’re going to be,” Eaves said.
Is future now?
Everyone involved in this situation — from talent evaluators in Phoenix to Eaves to Turris himself — say he must get bigger if he’s to survive at the next level.
But two other realities appear to be driving the notion of Turris turning pro as soon as possible.
One: He sees other similar-sized players near the top of the 2007 NHL draft — specifically Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner — having success as rookies in Chicago and Edmonton, respectively.
Two: If Turris signs a NHL contract and plays for Phoenix this season, it will count as a full year toward free agency. Turris said he’s not felt better — more energized — this season than he does right now.
He said the bye last week was huge and he’s focused on helping UW go deep into the postseason. Eaves said he’s not unreasonable to think Turris could finish the season like he started it.
“I’m doing the best that I can,” Turris said. “I’ve tried my hardest, that’s all I can ask.”
— Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune