LA Kings: Should Alex Turcotte have stayed at Wisconsin one more season?

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

After playing one season at the University of Wisconsin, LA Kings 2019 fifth overall pick Alex Turcotte left school to turn professional.

It has certainly been a rollercoaster ride for LA Kings prospect Alex Turcotte.

Prior to being drafted number five overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Turcotte was a star on a stacked United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) – averaging a little over one and a half points per game in his final season with the team. From there, he went on to play for Coach Tony Granato at the University of Wisconsin.

Turcotte’s 2019-20 season with the Badgers was marred by injury and a bout of mononucleosis – but despite this, he still put up nine goals and seventeen assists in twenty-nine games. Like his USNTDP team, this Wisconsin team was loaded with talent – headlined by Turcotte and fellow first-round picks Cole Caufield, K’Andre Miller, and Dylan Holloway. Even with all of this firepower, the Badgers greatly underachieved that season.

With a pandemic looming and perhaps leaving the next NCAA season in limbo at the time, Alex Turcotte decided to turn pro. He signed his three-year Entry-Level Contract, but due to covid protocols, he spent the summer training at home.

His first actual game action would come in December of 2020 as a part of Team USA in the World Junior Championships. Although a bit rusty at first, by the end of the tournament, Turcotte showed the form that made him a top-five draft pick and helped the USA take home the gold medal.

After the tournament, the LA Kings sent Turcotte to the Ontario Reign of the AHL to be reunited with his former USNTDP coach John Wroblewski. Joining an Ontario team stocked with highly-touted prospects, it looked like Turcotte and the Reign were in for an exciting season.

It appears, however, that Alex Turcotte has been snake-bitten in his young career, as injuries have limited him to only seven games played so far this season. Much like the entire Ontario Reign team, he has yet to get on track – he has only one assist and no goals.

Should LA Kings prospect Alex Turcotte have stayed at Wisconsin?

Given the difficulties he has had in the AHL so far his season, the question begs to be asked – should Alex Turcotte have stayed at Wisconsin for another season? When he signed his contract with the LA Kings, it seemed like a “no brainer” decision for the young forward. Hindsight is always 20/20, however,  and a look at how his former teammate Cole Caufield is doing this season with the Badgers at least gives us reason to wonder.

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Caufield, the 2019 first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens (number 15 overall), was a freshman at Wisconsin last season, just like Turcotte. And just like Turcotte, he was also a star for the USNTDP prior to arriving in Madison. The difference? Caufield chose to stay and play this season in the NCAA.

His first season at the collegiate level was very good – compiling 36 points in 36 games. In his sophomore season, Caufield has taken his game to the next level by scoring 25 goals and 21 assists in 28 games and has shown significant improvement in his confidence and overall game.

Word out of Montreal is once this college season is over, Caufield will be signing his ELC with the Canadiens.

It is impossible to say with certainty if Turcotte would have benefited more by staying another season at Wisconsin instead of turning professional. As it turns out, however, he would have had the opportunity to play in more games so far to this point had he stayed.

In an ideal world, Turcotte could have played his sophomore season for the Badgers, then signed his ELC and played in the Reign’s remaining games this season, allowing him to play in a total of 50-60 games. Again, this is all hindsight, but it appears Alex Turcotte would have really benefited by staying one more season at the University of Wisconsin.

What is clear is that the high energy, physical style of play that makes Turcotte so appealing could also be a detriment – as he has missed time due to injury in each of his past three seasons.

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Without a full recent season of hockey, it is almost impossible to truly gauge where Turcotte is in his development. Now that he is back on the ice for the Reign, perhaps now we will start getting a better idea of how long it will take Alex Turcotte to make it to the LA Kings.