Alex Turcotte went to the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in Czech Republic hoping to win a gold medal for Team USA and one up his father, Alfie, who played on the 1984 team and led Team USA in scoring on their way to a sixth place finish.
After a 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Team Finland, the defending champions, off a third period power play goal, Team USA finishes the tournament in sixth place.
"It stinks," Turcotte said while fighting back his emotions after the loss. "We came together three weeks ago and became close as a team and everyone's sacrificing and you're not home with your family and everyone's trying to do their best to win gold. And, you come up short and don't even medal. It's obviously tough. I thought we had a good group of guys and that makes it worse, I think. It just stinks."
Turcotte, who was drafted fifth overall this past June by the LA Kings, had two assists in five games and was disappointed in his own performance during the tournament.
"I didn't think I had the best tournament by my standards," he said. "It hurts knowing that I didn't help the team as much as I could have. It goes that way sometimes. I tried my best and I know everyone in there gave it their all. I think that's why it hurts so much because we all wanted to win for our country and everyone was sacrificing and it's just unfortunate."
Team USA head coach Scott Sandelin, who was a teammate of the elder Turcotte on that 1984 team, agreed that this was a challenging tournament for the 18-year-old, but believes the younger Turcotte gave it everything he had.
"The toughest thing for guys who have been the offensive leaders of their team is that they haven't had to defend much because they always seem to have the puck and if they don't, their linemates do," the coach explained.
"So, when you get to this level and all the players are just as good and all the teams are competitive, you have to make sure you're on the right side of the puck and making good decisions so you can get it back and create a scoring opportunity. I know he hasn't had the tournament he wanted to have, but it's certainly not from lack of effort. That's for sure."
Turcotte's drive, compete and willingness to put in the work is a big reason why the Kings drafted the 5-foot-11, 185 pound offensive threat so high this past June at the NHL Draft.
Video: Inside the LA Kings' selection of Alex Turcotte
"One of the things [Kings GM Rob Blake] wanted to build with, last year especially, was players that could change the culture of the team and we think Turcotte will effect the culture of the team. We think he's a future letter-wearer," said Mark Yannetti, Kings director of amateur scouting for the past 13 seasons. "He does the right things at the right times even though it might not benefit him personally in terms of what ends up on the scoresheet and that's tough to do when you're an offensive guy.
"There's just a focus and a drive in him that can't be taught," he continued. "When you sit across the table from him, there's a different burn and a different feel to him when it comes to his love for the game. You add all that with his two-way playmaking ability, his natural offensive skill, his speed. Picking him at number five was a no brainer for us."
Turcotte, who also spent two seasons with the US National Team Development Program and won bronze at the U18 world championship in April, describes himself as a 200-foot player, who can make plays offensively, but considers himself more of a playmaker than a shooter. He also likes to go to the dirty areas and generate offense that way too.
"My hockey IQ, passing and stick handling are my strengths," he explained. "They all work together and I know where everyone is at on the ice at all times and I can use my hands to create space and my passing to set up my teammates. I know I need to shoot more and go for the goal and not just look for the pass and I'm working on that.
"There are times when I feel I can score all the time and then there are times when I feel like I can never score," he continued. "So I want to work on my shot and just get more comfortable and confident with it. Maybe I'll be more willing to use it. In general, I think I can work on everything. It's a cliche thing to say, but I'm nowhere near a perfect player and there's a lot of room for improvement in a lot of different areas of my game."
His desire to get better is something Sandelin says sets him apart from the pack and will go a long way towards his development as an elite hockey player.
"He's just got that drive and that passion. You can't fake that," he stated. "He wants to succeed every time he's on the ice. Sometimes I think they need to understand there are other ways to succeed than just putting up points. He's used to scoring a lot and generating opportunities and that's something he'll continue to learn and is probably getting a big lesson in that here at this tournament. Every level you go up is tough. College is tough. World juniors is tough. And, getting the opportunity to learn and play in those situations and try to work through it is really good for his development."
Turcotte will head back to Wisconsin to finish his freshman season and hopes to add a lot more to his six goals and nine assists for 15 points in 16 games with the Badgers.
"I think I started off pretty hot, but then the stretch before this tournament was pretty tough for me, as far as production goes," he said. "That's what my job is on that team and it's been hard to feel like I'm not doing it, but it's a learning experience that every young player goes through and, unfortunately, it's my turn.
"I'm just going to work as hard as I can to get out of it, while still enjoying the game and having a good attitude about it. I feel like if I do those three things, everything will work itself out."
Although he leaves Czech Republic without a medal, Turcotte is grateful for the opportunity to represent his country, build new friendships with his teammates and learn one of life's most important lessons.
"Don't take anything for granted," he stated. "This went by fast and when you have the chance to do something special, be in the moment and don't let it slip through your fingers. Just don't take anything for granted.
"I know I'll be able to look back on this and think it was pretty cool," he continued. "The ultimate goal is to win a gold medal. Hopefully, I have the opportunity to try again next year."