Prospect of Interest: Alex Turcotte part of USA Hockey’s next wave

The US National Development team will be the talk of the draft as they could see eight or more players drafted in the first round, and Sam Cosentino sat down with Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte, Cole Caufield and Trevor Zegras ahead of the big day.

He’s known for his competitiveness, elite two-way game, and smart playmaking, but Alex Turcotte’s U.S. National Team Development Program teammate, Jack Hughes — perhaps you’ve heard of him? — simply calls him “a beast.”

“He plays a hard, heavy, skilled game and that’s a tough combination to deal with,” Hughes said of Turcotte, who’s been projected to be the next U.S. skater drafted after Hughes. “Not only does he score goals and make plays, but he’s probably the best face-off guy on our team. A lot of his goals are net-front tips, rebounds and shots in front, proving he’s not just a skilled guy who can score from the perimeter but a guy who goes to the net.”

Though Turcotte ran into some bad luck in 2018-19, being sidelined for much of the first half with an injury, his talent shined through over the course of his draft campaign. In 37 games with the national under-18 team, Turcotte tallied 27 goals and 62 points as the No. 2 centre behind Hughes.

Here’s what else you need to know about Turcotte.

Team: USNTDP
Position: C
Shoots: Left
Age: 18 (born Feb. 26, 2001)
From: Island Lake, IL
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 185 pounds

The NHL runs in his family

Turcotte is the son of Alfie Turcotte, a first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 1983. Turcotte senior played 112 NHL games over the course of seven season with the Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals, and while he spent most of his hockey career in the minors, he left a lasting impression in the form of a now-popular move amongst skilled forwards: “The Alfie.”

“Players don’t even know it’s ‘The Alfie,'” Alfie Turcotte told NHL.com.

“It’s more of an instinctual, in the moment, type-move,” Alex Turcotte, who has (of course) perfected the move, said. “You basically come down on a guy and do a toe-drag, he steps up on you and you push it back out and go, almost in a recovery style.”

Turcotte’s dad has been instrumental in his son’s development, and sees the teen’s talent as something already beyond what his own was at that age.

“He plays a team game better than I did,” Alfie said. “I was still learning as I went along in my professional ranks and he’s already bypassed that. He’s at a higher level than I was at a younger age with his team game and knowing when to give it up or go.

“He’s a lot more disciplined than I was, too. I think he might be faster. I was quick but that was 35 years ago, and the game was different then.”

He’s part of a dominant U.S. class

“Jack Hughes is our most electrifying player,” Wroblewski told NHL.com, “but Alex is right there as our most valuable player because his game just transcends so much in so many different areas.”

We’ve seen some of the game’s best young players emerge out of USA Hockey, as it’s not just a deep class of talent but an elite one with as many as four skaters worthy of top-10 selections and a handful of others knocking on the door.

Turcotte is also following in the footsteps of many young American skaters, having opted to play college hockey at the University of Wisconsin — same as fellow USNTDP forward Cole Caufield.

He’s being compared to Jonathan Toews

Turcotte’s strong 200-foot game has hockey minds already inserting him into future Selke conversations, but there’s another element to his game that is earning some intriguing comparisons. USNTDP head coach John Wroblewski calls it sandpaper and silk.

“Alex’s personality is a blend between Sidney Crosby and Brad Marchand because he’s so agitating like Marchand but will never give you the time of day like Crosby,” Wroblewski told NHL.com. “Just the way he carries himself on the ice is very annoying to the other team because he’s so good and so versatile. He can go right through you or dangle you.”

But the most common comparison is one that also happens to be Turcotte’s favourite.

If there’s one prospect Chicago Blackhawks are likely most familiar with this year, it’s Turcotte. The kid from nearby Island Lake, IL., grew up a Blackhawks fan and his billing as the best two-way forward in this class has drawn some strong comparisons to Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.

It helps, too, that the Blackhawks jumped into the No. 3 spot — the same spot they drafted Toews back in 2006 — where many have been projecting Turcotte to go on Friday.

“If I could be half the player he is, that’d be pretty cool,” Turcotte told NBC Sports Chicago. “Obviously who knows, only time will tell what’s going to happen but he’s definitely someone that I think I look up to and try to be like. Like I said, he’s a special player and he’s known to be a winner. I can only hope to be as good as him one day.”

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