OTTAWA - After a tumultuous start to his career, Kyle Turris proved last season that he belongs in the NHL.
Now the 23-year-old Ottawa Senators forward is ready to take the next step in his career.
Drafted third overall in 2007 by the Phoenix Coyotes, Turris had his share of struggles while playing in the desert. The problems culminated when he was unable to come to terms on a new deal when he became a restricted free agent on July 1, 2011.
He missed the first six weeks of the 2011-12 season before finally signing a two-year, US$2.8-million deal, but it was clear his time in Phoenix was numbered.
Then came the move that rejuvenated his career. Turris was traded to Ottawa for defenceman David Runblad and a second-round pick on Dec. 17, 2011, and the change of scenery did wonders for his game. After a solid first season in Ottawa, he's opened this campaign with three goals in two games.
"(The trade) was a breath of fresh air," Turris said. "I can't thank the coaching staff and players enough for giving me the opportunity that they have and giving me the confidence that they have. The game is all about confidence and to not have confidence you don't make plays you know you can make, you start playing a different way and it goes down a bad road."
Turris had 12 goals and 17 assists in 49 games last season and looked comfortable as Ottawa's second-line centre, but he was open to change and constructive criticism regarding his game.
When Ottawa conditioning coach Chris Schwarz pointed out some of Turris's deficiencies and suggested some different training methods ,Turris took the opportunity to improve himself.
Rather than return home to New Westminster, B.C., Turris spent the summer in Ottawa working with Schwarz and believes his early season success is a result of the work.
"I was so lucky to work with (Schwarz) this summer," he said. "It's only been two games, but I feel like I have lots of jump, lots of energy. I feel explosive and I'm getting stronger so those are all things that resulted from this summer."
Turris scored in the Senators season opener against the Winnipeg Jets and was instrumental in Ottawa’s 4-0 win over Florida Monday night where he scored twice. It was his sixth career two-goal game.
Turris's first goal on Monday came off a pass from childhood friend Patrick Wiercioch, who is hoping to become a regular on the Senators blue-line.
"It was a very special moment and one that we won't forget for a long time," Turris said. "To go from being nine or 10-years-old and playing together as peewees and atoms, and now be able to play not only in the NHL, but on the same team together and connect on the power play together was really neat."
Wiercioch was happy to share in his childhood friend's success.
"I've always known the type of player Kyle is and the potential that he had," Wiercioch said. "I think a lot of guys don't give him enough credit for how hard he competes.
"Ever since he's been in Ottawa I think it’s been a better fit for him and he’s done really well."
Turris knows there are always bound to be skeptics, but he said he prefers to use that negativity as motivation.
"You're always trying to prove everybody wrong," Turris said. "I'm pretty hard on myself and I expect a lot out of myself too. I'm always going to be trying to prove people wrong and show that I was worthy of a third overall pick."
The Senators showed they have plenty of faith in Turris and his abilities by signing him to a $17.5-million, five-year contract extension that will keep him in Ottawa through the 2017-18 season.
Senators coach Paul MacLean has liked what he's seen from Turris so far and believes the young player is coming into his own.
"He's older, he's stronger and as a result he's more confident," MacLean said. "He's always been a player that can skate the rink and he can really shoot the puck and the things we're asking him to do is being in the faceoff circle, being good defensively and playing against other teams good players and playing well against them.
"Things that you would expect from a player as they advance in their career as they get more responsibility."
While Turris has adopted Ottawa as a second home, he has no plans on forgetting his time in Phoenix.
"It was a really good learning experience," he said. "There was lots of things I learned from, good and bad, and I take it with me. It's part of me now and I’ve learned from it and I'm building off of it and moving forward."
Notes: The Senators re-assigned G Robin Lehner to Binghamton today. Lehner served as Craig Anderson’s backup for the first two games, but with three goalies on its roster Senators general manager Bryan Murray felt a move was necessary. Ben Bishop is expected to play sometime this week as the Senators have three games in four days…Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson were given the day off from practice today.
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