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Turris aiming to silence the doubters

by Eric Stephens
Being picked third in the 2007 Entry Draft naturally brought some high expectations for Kyle Turris. Playing in the NHL just four days after completing his lone collegiate season at the University of Wisconsin only heightened those expectations for the young Phoenix Coyotes center.

Those expectations increased when he was handed a spot on the Coyotes' second line to start the 2008-09 season.

There were moments of brilliance -- he scored his first NHL goal in the season's second game, had 4 points in his first three contests and had a four-point night -- which included his first two-goal game -- against Pacific Division champion San Jose in March.

But he also had a 10-game streak without a point and two other eight-game scoreless stretches. He also was a healthy scratch on occasion and was sent to San Antonio of the American Hockey League for three weeks in February.

He finished his rookie season with just 8 goals and 12 assists in 63 games, and there was a feeling of disappointment in some quarters.

Turris, who turned 20 on Aug. 14, said there were times he could have used his youth as an excuse, but he didn't. Being a high draft pick brings extra attention and he understands increased scrutiny comes with the territory.

"Maybe sometimes I thought about it," he said, "but at the same time, I kind of realized that it's in the job description. There's always going to be people talking about you in good ways and in bad ways. You can't do anything about it.

"There's always going to be somebody saying something. I really don't think about it."

He also played through a herniated disk in his back that began bothering him in November, only got worse as the season went on, and needed offseason surgery to repair.

"It was definitely frustrating," he said. "It took away from my game. There were games where I couldn't do anything. I tried to work through it and make the best of it. Physically it was real tough to deal with."

Turris, however, is eager to show the Coyotes the kind of offensive potential he displayed as a teen in the British Columbia Hockey League and in his one season with the Badgers, where he led the team with 35 points in 36 games.

"There's always going to be people talking about you in good ways and in bad ways. You can't do anything about it. There's always going to be somebody saying something. I really don't think about it."
-- Kyle Turris

General Manager Don Maloney admitted that he relied on too many young players in 2008-09, and that inexperience most revealed itself after the All-Star break, when Phoenix fell out of playoff contention after sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference.

Turris was Exhibit A for those who believed he was rushed to the big leagues before he was ready. Maloney sought to relieve some of the pressure by trading for Matthew Lombardi, Petr Prucha and Scottie Upshall last spring and bringing back former 27-goal scorer Radim Vrbata over the summer.

Maloney figures the increased competition for forward spots among the top six will bring out the best in his young prospect.

"It's a more proven group there," he said. "We're not just sticking a 19-year-old in there and telling Kyle Turris that we need you to score. He can just develop at his own speed."

Instead of relying on long-time captain Shane Doan and since-traded Olli Jokinen to carry them offensively, the Coyotes are hoping they now have more scoring options while youngsters like Turris, Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker take another step in their development.

Turris is looking forward to the challenge of finding his role in the new mix.

"I just want to go have a good (training) camp and show what I can do," he said. "I know there's 40 or 50 guys trying to make the team. It gets pretty intense. Nobody wants to lose a spot and it gets pretty exciting with guys putting everything on the line.

"I just want to take another step from last year. I want to play a bigger role on the team and help contribute when I can."
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