Development Camp 2013: Turner Elson


AHL Hockey: Apr 19 Barons vs Heat

– pic via OKC Barons


Turner Elson’s got a great hockey name and a great hockey story. Originally from New Westminster, BC, Elson took the non-traditional approach to the NHL. He was a star in midget but had unspectacular numbers in bantam, so he wasn’t grabbed in the WHL’s Bantam Draft. So he walked onto the Red Deer Rebels and became a regular player and eventually team captain.

When he was over-looked in a pair of NHL Drafts and emerged as a free agent, Elson instead got a spot at Calgary’s 2011 development camp as, basically, a filler body. He worked hard enough to earn an invite to rookie camp and did well enough there to earn an NHL contract.

And at the pair of development camp scrimmages, media and fans alike noted Elson was one of the better players on the ice despite being an undrafted free agent signing who has all of five professional games under his belt. I had the chance to chat with Elson during development camp early in July.


Ryan Pike: You made an impression at a camp like this a few years ago and managed to get a contract out of it. Have any of the invitees asked you for any advice about how to make an impact here?

Well yeah, you know. Some of the invitees there, I told them that you’ve just got to go out there and work hard, that’s all they want. Bob Hartley’s a hard-working coach and he wants guys that will go out there and play their hearts out every night. That’s what you’ve got to do at this camp – you’ve got to play your heart out on the ice and leave it there, take nothing for granted when you’re here because it’s a big opportunity for a lot of people.

Walk me through your season. You could’ve gone to the pros, you could’ve gone to junior, and you ended up staying in junior due to the roster situation in Abbotsford during the lockout. Was that a good thing for your development?

It was definitely a good thing for my development and my leadership skills and it helped me a lot. I progressed as a player during my 20-year-old season. I got a lot of points. I got a lot of ice-time. I played in every situation. I was a C so I learned how to be a leader and learned how to show the young guys the ropes, and I battled there every night, and that’s what I wanted to do heading into my pro career.

There are a lot of guys who won’t be back in Abbotsford next season. Do you look at the roster situation and see some opportunity in either Calgary or Abbotsford?

Yeah, there’s obviously a lot of opportunity on both sides, Calgary and Abbotsford. My main focus right now is to try to do my best at Calgary camp and show that I can stay there longer, as long as I possibly can, and next stop is Abbotsford, and I’ll make sure I’ll be an impact player and try to work my butt off every night and make sure that the coaches want me out there and use me in key situations.

A guy who may be captain here next year, Mark Giordano, is a lot like you, in that he came in from out of nowhere – undrafted in junior and the NHL – and got an NHL deal and worked his way up from there. Do you look as some of the things he’s done as a pro to cement himself in this organization’s plans?

Yeah, I look at him and a lot of guys. There’s not a lot of guys that can make it through that, and there’s only a certain amount of guys that can, and that’s the guys with the biggest hearts. I showed it when I was coming in as a 17-year-old without a camp listing or anything with Red Deer, and I stayed there for four years, and that’s what I did coming into camp here. I got my contract, and I just want to keep on moving up the ladder and that’s all my heart’s set to do, and that’s play in the NHL.

In a camp where there’s five first round picks here, and a bunch of guys with NHL experience, you have an NHL contract in your back pocket. Do you approach things wanting to be one of those guys that make the fans up in the stands keep looking at their roster sheets to figure out who you are?

Yeah, exactly. We know they’re not going to know a guy who was signed for whatever he did coming into camp and not being a drafted player. They’re gonna be look at the first rounders, second rounders, the top guys that are notable. I like being the guy that comes under the radar and makes sure that people notice me whenever they’re out there. It’s a better way of getting people to notice you by going out there and doing whatever it takes to get noticed.

Flames development camp profiles

  • jeremywilhelm

    Turner Elson was a pretty solid kid the last two years in the WHL (which makes sense, he was older). I watched him alot when he would come to Edmonton.

    His ceiling is prob 4th liner at most, but I could see an Eric Nystrom type player from the kid. He was very dominant on a weak Rebels team.

  • Lordmork

    I quite like Turner Elson, and I hope he makes it to the NHL. I really want to see the Flames try and mine as many of this sort of undrafted, hard-working character players as they can, because they’re the kind of depth I’d love to see with the Heat.

  • beloch

    You should have asked him what he thinks of spending a season in the KHL. He’s obviously thought about it thanks to Giordano.

    In other news…

    Grabovski is still up for grabs. I dislike his personality, but his stats suggest he’d really make the Flames more competitive this year. He’s 29, so picking him up would signal an about face away from a “suck+7” rebuild to another couple seasons of “going for it”. I therefore absolutely hate the idea of the Flames acquiring him. Still, I’m afraid Feaster is in the ring with all the other GMs trying to pick up Grabovski. Has anyone heard any good/bad/utterly-dire rumours?

  • beloch

    I think there’s a reason why grabovski is still not signed other than his bad attitude. Most likely the price/term and maybe demanding a NTC is whats scaring GMs away. The next year or 2 we are most likely gonna be at the bottom of the league, so I rather see the bbb young guns develop with top 2 line minutes than have grabovski take a spot from someone like backlund. And while we at it, get better draft picks too 🙂

  • Demetric

    the only reason he is not sign is HE has chosen not too, he just got married and went on a honeymoon and I believe his agent informed people that he would be taking his time with his decision.

    As far a fit here, tough one, would be an upgrade over Stajan and slot into 1c, but would only want for a couple years and if we could move stajan.

    Need to give Backlund and Knight 2/3 ice time and Monahan in there too for 9 games.

    Not sure a good fit at this time

    • piscera.infada

      Exactly. If we got rid of ragin’ Stajan then yeah, probably. But I’m not in favour of anything that bumps Knight from 3c.

      Plus, with this team where it is, I’m not sure either party really benefits. All Grabo does here is make this team marginally better in the short-term while taking up a roster spot. All we really do for Grabo is pay him (likely very little success in the short term).

  • I think the Flames are re-signed to stinking for at least this year, if not the next two at least. In addition, I’m guessing Grabbo isn’t terribly interested in being dropped in the middle of a fresh rebuild. Money won’t be much of a factor for him thanks to the lock-out, so my guess is he’ll sign with a good team for a chance to win.

    Calgary’s chance to acquire him was via waivers or trade.

    • supra steve

      Too many goalies too, but they still signed McBackup. You’re right, signing Grabo would make not a lot of sense, but that doesn’t mean that they are or are not actively trying to do so.

  • supra steve

    I thought this story was about Elson and prospects like him, instead we got on about Grabbo and the remaining free agents. The Flames this year and probably next year should avoid the freemarket and concentrate on player development; as it is this team has too many vets. The Flames need to see if Jones, TJG, Cundaria and the other d from St L(forgot his name can play Hartly’s game. With Jackman and McGrattan the Flames have not given much room for the development of Hank and Bouma both of whom might have a higher skill set than the two vets. Again I believe that we need to see this season for what it will be player developments and a rollercoaster ride lots of ups and downs. But build a team of hard workers and an identity (the way Hartly wants to play and this could be fun. Elson might be a fit. Blazing Saddles away.

  • supra steve

    Grabovski would consider Calgary because he would be the number 1 center here.

    If he signed for a short term and put up good numbers he could use it as leverage for a future contract.

    I could see a fit. I know Calgary has a lack of centers that have earned a roster spot: Backlund and Staj and possibly Knight from impressive dev. camp).

    Whenever I watched the Leafs I always wished Grabovski could play here. He’s a good player that is always skating and being aggressive.

    He really is only a 2nd line center, but if he came here he could be the first line center, with Backs, Stajan and Knight centering the other lines.

    Start Knight off on the 4th line. He has the tools to be a good 3-4th liner. You gotta make him battle for that 3rd line role.

    Stajan will be gone at the latest by the deadline anyway so you can bring Knight along slowly. He could top out as a Jarret Stoll type so let him earn it instead of handing it to him.

    Brodie, Backs and Sven all had to work their way up the lineup.

    Also Ive watched only a few Rebels games and Elson rarely stood out but alwayed seemed to be getting points and on a line that made plays. He will play hard in Abbotsford probably earn a call up..

  • The Last Big Bear

    If you’re trying to maximize the development of your new teenager future star winger, and you have the choice, are you going to put him on the wing of your superstar centreman, or on the wing of your green-as-grass rookie centre? Of course you’re going to put him with your star centre, because he will learn vastly more playing with a seasoned pro than he will playing with some other who also just came up from juniors.

    What Grabovski brings to the Flames is a higher quality player than they curreny have, to help maximize the development of the younger players. He is a more skilled line mate for the new wingers to hone their skills with, he can set them up better, and is better able to make up for their deficits (especially defensively) than anyone currently on the Flames. He also gives the team more options for sheltering the other centers.

    Grabovski is better than Stajan, full stop, and does all the same things just better. He’s more expensive, but the Flames are hardly in a cash crunch.

    I’d rather see Grabovski than Stajan on the Flames, but even if Stajan stayed around, there’s room for both of them. It would leave two centee spots up for grabs, and the Flames only have one young centre who has really forced himself into a spot in the NHL roster (Backlund).

    It’s hard to argue that Knight, Reinhart, and Bouma would all be held back by playing at a level far below their talents in the AHL. In fact, in an ideal world, I think all 3 would probably benefit from a(nother) stint on the farm.