Kings prospect Alex Turcotte has had his share of adversity over the past few years. If being selected fifth overall by Los Angeles at the 2019 NHL Draft was the high-water moment of his time with the club thus far, few other events to date have quite reached that level of excitement. The following season, he put up 26 points in his 29 games while at the University of Wisconsin and playing for coach Tony Granato. Turcotte also missed seven games.
One year later, now as a pro hockey player, the Illinois native again missed time with the Ontario Reign due to an injury. Ditto his second pro season — although he did sneak into eight NHL games that year, as well.
The worst of the situation came last year, where he suffered two separate concussions. This led to multiple doctor visits over the summer, including seeing a specialist to help figure out what he needed to do get back to being an able bodied 21-year-old.
“When you feel like crap for so long, you kind of forget what it feels like to feel normal,” Turcotte said, as he opened up about his journey back. “I had a couple rough six months or so; probably even longer. Once I started getting symptom free and feeling normal, it felt like something that I’ve never felt like before. Like I said, you kind of forget that feeling of feeling normal. … it’s just been so long, so that was definitely a relief.”
Earlier this month, we reported Turcotte was close to returning. He soon began practicing with the Reign and was cleared for game action prior to Ontario traveling to San Jose last week. Now, with three games under his belt, he’s slowly starting to settle in.
“I think it’ll take longer probably than I expected to feel normal,” Turcotte continued. “You want to go in right away and help produce, and kind of go back to where you left off. But I’m trying to understand that I missed so much time. I’m just trying to be positive and take it a game at a time. You feel more comfortable each period, each shift; but it’s definitely going to be a process, for sure.”
One noticeable change right away, whether you see Turcotte at practice or in a game, is his new tinted visor.
“It helps with the bright lights,” he explained. “That’s pretty much the only reason [to wear it], for the glare on the ice. The lights reflect off the ice, so it just helps minimize the glare.”
For now, he’s not only playing catch-up with his overall health, Turcotte is also playing catch-up with his teammates — who all started the 2022-23 season more than a month before he did.
“It’s obviously difficult, everyone’s kind of gotten a head start on me,” he noted. It’s been the story of my pro career, so it’s not something I’m not already used to. I just have to deal with it and fight through it. It’s frustrating because you want to be at your best all the time, but it’s so not the way it goes sometimes. You just have to keep grinding away.”
Having seen Akil Thomas go through something similar — in terms of starting late and having to come from behind — hasn’t been something lost on Turcotte.
“He went through a lot last year,” added Turcotte. “It was hard for him. Then, towards the end of year, he really got hot and was one of our better players. I think [you just need to] stay positive and take it one day at a time.”
With nearly a full week between games, it is allowing Turcotte the opportunity to change his mind set at practice this week.
“I can kind of just focus on not trying to get ramped up for my first game, but more so on the details and fixing what I have to be better at,” he said. “In that first game, there were some nerves there. When you don’t play for so long, you get a little anxious and stuff. Now, it’s behind me and I can just worry about what we’re trying to do as a team; just trying to get better.”
Lead photo via ALo Images
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