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Turcotte brings star quality to Kings, draws comparisons to Kopitar

Forward picked No. 5 in 2019 NHL Draft excels both offensively, defensively

by Dan Greenspan / Correspondent

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Alex Turcotte sat in the Los Angeles Kings locker room after the first day of development camp in June and it was hard not to draw comparisons between the No. 5 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and the player who uses that stall during the regular season.

That would be Kings captain and two-time Stanley Cup winner Anze Kopitar.

"It's Kopi's? Yeah, that's pretty cool," Turcotte said of his locker assignment. "Yeah, I didn't know that. So now I do; and I'll try to stay away from it I guess."

Turcotte shares more than Kopitar's soft-spoken confidence and subtle humor. The 18-year-old forward has a similar responsible two-way game that has been refined by playing with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program for the past two seasons. Despite missing time with a hip injury, Turcotte had 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists) in 37 games for the U-18 NTDP team last season.

Video: Kings draft F Alex Turcotte No. 5

"When I saw him play, he's got a star quality and we need one of him," said Mike O'Connell, a longtime NHL coach and executive who is a special adviser to Kings general manager Rob Blake. "He looks like he sees the ice, he's competitive, good hands, goes through traffic, all that stuff that you hope that your player does, and he does it. He's a pretty good package."

Turcotte said he believes the top attributes of his game help bring out the best in his teammates, which should sound familiar to Kings fans after watching Kopitar for 13 seasons.

"I think the way I carry the puck and make plays and my hockey IQ on both sides of the ice is definitely my biggest strength, and I think with those things you can make your linemates better," Turcotte said. "I think that's a big part of my game is helping other guys and getting them in good spots and setting them up."

Turcotte will continue to refine those skills at the University of Wisconsin under coach Tony Granato, who played 13 seasons as a forward for the New York Rangers, Kings and San Jose Sharks. Going to college was always the plan for Turcotte, and that path never changed even as it became apparent he could be a high first-round draft pick. However, Turcotte said he has not decided how long he will be at Wisconsin before turning pro.

No matter when that transition happens, Turcotte said he is happy it will be with the Kings.

"Just to know where I'll be in the future is really nice, and it means that we can just get to work and just enjoy it," Turcotte said. "Kind of like how it's been for my life so far, just getting the work in and having fun playing hockey."

The Kings hope Turcotte will be the kind of difference-maker Kopitar became after being selected No. 11 in the 2005 NHL Draft. Kopitar has 888 points (312 goals, 576 assists) in 1,003 regular season games with the Kings, ranking fifth in goals, assists and points. He also won the Selke Trophy vaoted as the NHL's top defensive forward twice, in 2016 and 2018.

With Kopitar signed through the 2023-24 season, it is likely Turcotte will be sharing a locker room with him at some point, though not a locker. And though Turcotte understands parallels with Kopitar are inevitable, he expects to succeed in the NHL on his own terms.

"I think I have an internal drive and I really believe in my game and I think that it's going to translate, so I think I'm really confident with myself," Turcotte said.



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