LA Kings’ Alex Turcotte remains injured as camp begins, with return not known

The Athletic

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Alex Turcotte, whose bid to get his NHL career on track has been interrupted by injuries, will not participate in the Kings‘rookie camp and his status for next week’s main training camp remain unclear due to lingering concussion-related issues.

The 21-year-old Turcotte was the No. 5 pick of the 2019 draft and has played in only eight games with Los Angeles, all coming last season. Turcotte spent most of the year with the AHL’s Ontario Reign and played in 27 games.

Turcotte suffered a concussion when he was on the receiving end of a hard hit by the Colorado Eagles’ Andreas Englund during the opener of the Reign’s second-round Calder Cup playoff series. He did not return as Ontario was swept out of the postseason and he was unable to participate in on-ice sessions during the Kings’ development camp in July.

As the Kings opened their camp ahead of this weekend’s Rookie Faceoff prospect tournament, Marco Strum said Turcotte is “doing good” but noted that he will not travel to the Bay Area.

“I think he has a few more testing coming up here with different doctors,” said Sturm, who is entering his first season as Reign coach after serving as a Kings assistant for the previous four seasons. “As of right now, he’s not cleared. That’s all what I know. We want him healthy.

“I think he’s been through a lot in the past. We also want to take our time. When the doctor says he’s ready to go, then he is. But we just have to be a little bit patient.”

Turcotte was near the top of a notable 2019 draft class, with fellow US National Team Development Program players Jack Hughes, Trevor ZegrasMatthew Boldy, Spencer Knight, Cam York and Cole Caufield all selected within the first 15 picks. But the Illinois native and son of former NHL and pro player Alfie Turcotte has been dogged by injuries at the University of Wisconsin and with Ontario.

The concussion suffered in May came after he missed two months of action after incurring one in a game against Stockton. A tenacious player with a high motor on the ice, Turcotte had six goals and 12 assists for the Reign after playing in 31 games with Ontario during the 2020-21 pandemic season. The Kings aren’t shrugging off concern about the center’s inability to avoid getting hurt.

“There is obviously, if you have in that short of time that many injuries or concussions, whatever you want to call it,” Sturm said. “Yeah, it’s a concern. And doctors know. We all know. So that’s why we got to do it the right way. And there’s no rush.

“He’s a young kid and we still need him in a long run. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And he will be fine. He’s in a good spirit. So that’s good.”

In other news, the Kings took care of their final unsigned player Thursday by locking up defenseman Sean Durzi with a two-year contract extension worth $3.4 million. The team is up against the $82.5 million salary cap but managed to fit him in at $1.7 million average annual value.

Durzi, 23, was a surprising development for the Kings during their 2021-22 playoff season as he had three goals and 24 assists in 64 games. His 27 points ranked fourth among first-year NHL defensemen and his 121 blocked shots led Los Angeles. And his value shot up when Drew Doughty underwent season-ending surgery in March and was forced to miss their playoff series against Edmonton.

“I’m really happy for him because he deserved it,” Sturm said. “And he took advantage of injuries. He didn’t wait for it. He actually went in there and he came to the Kings’ locker room and grabbed it. I think that’s, for me, the most impressive thing about him.

“He was dialed in from day one. You could tell. He doesn’t want to go back down (to the AHL). He wants to stay in this locker room. So, I’m very happy for him. Now he’s a King and he got some extra cash too so that’s always nice.”

The rookie tournament, being played at the San Jose Sharks‘renovated and expanded practice facility and the new home of its AHL club, is something Brandt Clarke is particularly looking forward to. Clarke, whom the Kings selected with the eighth pick of the 2021 draft, did not play in last year’s event in Arizona due to a bout with mononucleosis.

Clarke, 19, is part of a deep prospect corps on defense as Jordan Spence, Helge Grans and Kim Nousiainen also got action with the AHL’s Reign last season. Spence was a dominant player in Ontario and played in 24 games with Los Angeles.

“There’s a lot of guys that have had some pro experience on our lineup and we’re going to be playing against some talented prospects as well,” said Clarke, who had 11 goals and 48 assists in his second Ontario Hockey League season with the Barrie Colts. “It should be fun. I missed out on this opportunity last year so it’s a good bonding experience first off. It should be fun. Good competition. Haven’t played these competitive games in a while. I’m really looking forward to it.

“We have a really talented prospect pool and I think we’re really going to show what we got to prove here.”

Said Sturm: “We can’t wait to see him out there. See what he’s got.”

(Photo by Alex Turcotte: Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

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