|Centre Kyle Turris wasted little time establishing himself as a key part of the Senators' future following his acquisition in a Dec. 7 trade with the Phoenix Coyotes (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Incredible, amazing ... they're words Kyle Turris uses to describe just about everything that has happened to him since joining the Ottawa Senators.
Then again, it can surely be said the 22-year-old from New Westminster, B.C., saw his National Hockey League career undergo a dramatic shift for the better in a mere six months. Yes, the Dec. 7 trade with the Phoenix Coyotes that brought the young centre to Ottawa meant that much to the fortunes of a player Senators management believes will be a huge part of its future.
"It's done wonders," Turris said of the career boost he gained with the move to Canada's capital. "It helps me confidence-wise moving forward and just knowing that I can help this team. And I want to help the team even more next year. I'm going to be working on things (over the summer) and I'll just keep trying to help the team every night."
The Senators spent much of the first two months of the 2011-12 season searching to fill a void at the second-line centre position. Turris, who missed the opening six weeks of the campaign in a contract dispute with the Coyotes, was identified as a potential target in that area and Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray pulled the trigger on the deal.
Even though that trade cost the Senators prized defence prospect David Rundblad, it was a transaction that provided an immediate boost for the Ottawa attack. Turris produced 12 goals and 29 points in 49 games after the trade, then later scored one of the biggest goals of Stanley Cup playoffs for the Senators — an overtime tally that gave Ottawa a dramatic 3-2 triumph over the New York Rangers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series.
While the Senators would fall to the Blueshirts in seven games, the memory of Turris's goal — a laser of a snap shot that beat New York's all-world netminder Henrik Lundqvist just under the crossbar — has the team anxious to see how much more he'll grow in the years to come.
"I think with Kyle, we've just seen the tip of the iceberg," Pierre Dorion, the Senators' director of player personnel, said in a recent interview with the Team 1200. "He's going to be a real good player for the Ottawa Senators for years to come."
While Turris struggled to find the right fit in Phoenix, there was no such issue with the Senators. Head coach Paul MacLean installed him as the team's second-line centre right away and he stayed there permanently, often with captain Daniel Alfredsson on his right wing.
"It was incredible," Turris said of the opportunity he was given with the Senators. "The confidence that they've given me to play my game and to have confidence in myself to play that game makes a world of difference. It allowed me to play and have fun."
Turris' commitment to the Senators is such that he has chosen to stay in Ottawa for a couple of months, working on strength training with conditioning coach Chris Schwarz. It's an area of growth than can pay major dividends for the 6-1, 195-pound centre going forward.
"He is a very good player, a very intelligent player," Murray said of Turris. "He plays the game right, he's got the stick in the right spot and he sees the ice. When this young man gets a little stronger and (gains) a little bit better balance, which he's going to stay and work on for part of the summer, I think he's going to be a very good player."
Given the cloud that hung over his head last summer and well into the fall, Turris can't help but smiling about the thought that he's found just the right hockey home with the Senators.
"It's exciting," he said with an eye toward training camp in September. "I'm looking forward to working out with Schwarzy here and getting stronger and coming back to camp next year ready to help the team as much as I can."