64344947

In the summer of 2007, Kyle Turris was one of the most desirable prospects in all of hockey.  He had just completed a season in the BCHL, one where he had posted a staggering 66 goals and 121 points in a mere 53 games.  The Hockey News ranked him as the third-best available prospect for the 2007 Draft, and in their profile of him hyped his tremendous skill while sounding a prescient note of caution:

There was talk in the scouting community that had the Philadelphia Flyers won the first overall pick, they would have used it to select Kyle Turris, an offensive wizard who has drawn comparisons to Joe Sakic and Dany Heatley… but at 6-feet and 170 pounds, Turris has a lot of bulking up to do in the next couple of seasons… whoever gets him needs patience.

As it turned out, it was the Phoenix Coyotes that ended up holding that third overall selection, and it was the Coyotes that used it to draft Turris.  The patience was less noticeable, though.

Phoenix gave Turris a single year in college before breaking him in at the NHL level, and once they realized that was an error they had already started the clock ticking on his contract and wasted a year of it developing him in the AHL (for more on the cautionary nature of this tale, read Kent Wilson’s take at Hockey Prospectus). Last season, the final year of Turris’ entry-level deal, he recorded a grand total of 25 points in 65 games.  Now,with Turris’ entry-level deal over, the young forward is trying to parley that 25-point season into a massive new contract with the Coyotes (Turris is rumoured to be asking for upwards of $3.0 million per season).  It’s a reckless insane drastic over-valution uh, bold move on the part of Turris, who doesn’t exactly possess a lot of leverage as a restricted free agent with disappointing scoring numbers, and it has prompted all sorts of speculation that Turris is trying to get traded.

Still, the fact is that players taken top-five in the NHL Draft tend to hang on to at least a good portion of their value for a long time (as the fact that Cam Barker will earn more than $2.0 million this year after playing like an AHL’er and getting bought out in 2010-11 shows).  A more interesting fact is that Turris probably deserves to be viewed as a guy that could yet breakout.

Last season, Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett played Turris in the easiest role imaginable.  Virtually every shift he played started in the offensive zone.  He played against the worst opponents imaginable.  It cost him in terms of overall ice-time – Tippett limited him to less than 10:00 per night.  Turris, though, delivered in this role – on any given even-strength shift, no player on the team was more likely to record a point than Turris.

Why are Turris’ overall numbers so poor?  Partly, it is a function of playing so few minutes – Turris ranked 10th among Coyotes’ regulars in even-strength ice-time per game.  Even scoring at the clip that he did, it’s tough to put up spectacular point totals in such limited ice-time.  More of a factor, though, was Turris’ inability to do anything on the power play: of the nine forwards that played more than one minute per night, Turris had far-and-away the worst scoring paceless than one-third as good as the eighth-ranked Eric Belanger.

At this stage in his career, Turris is a strong even-strength scorer in the most favourable possible situations.  This is less than ideal, naturally, but the fact that he was able to score at such a strong clip indicates that he may have a future as an offensive weapon in the NHL.  It is why (along with his draft pedigree, of course) Turris might be an attractive option for a team like Toronto.  Still, the fact that a player still as limited as Turris (carefully managed ice-time, no power play results) is playing hardball isn’t going to endear him to the Coyotes, or anyone else for that matter.