Don’t Sleep On Turner Elson


It’s
funny how organizational depth at certain positions can change over a period of
just a few years. At one point, the Flames’ farm system was so saturated with
grinders, checkers, fighters and ‘role players’ that it got to the point where
fans were wondering if they’d ever see a first line talent again.

There
were such exciting players in the pipeline as Kris Chucko, umm, Ryan Howse,
uhhh… let’s see, Greg Nemisz, Brett Sutter… oh an remember when everyone got
upset because they didn’t sign Spencer Bennett?

You
get the point.

Nowadays,
it could be argued that the Flames system has taken a complete 180° with the
likes of Sam Bennett, Emile Poirier, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund all
looking like top-6 players, while Michael Ferland and Morgan Klimchuk could one day move up to that level.
Meanwhile, where the Flames were once so opulent with third- and fourth-line
talent, it’s now lacking – at least in terms of upward mobility to the NHL.

If
you’ve been a casual observer of the Adirondack Flames this year, there’s
someone you should start paying attention to, and not because I’m telling you
to, but because he’s forcing you to.

Remember
Turner Elson? Yeah, he’s that
undrafted free agent Jay Feaster signed back in 2011, used to be the alternate captain
of Brent Sutter’s Red Deer Rebels, you know who he is.

The
thing is, he’s been easy to overlook since he’s turned pro. He hasn’t been a
world beater by any stretch and, to be honest, I’m as guilty as the next person
for thinking he’d top out as a third-line AHLer. We should all be eating crow
right now.

Here’s
Turner Elson’s history in a nutshell. He wasn’t even supposed to be in the WHL,
but forced his way onto the Rebels as a 17-year-old. He was skipped over in the
draft, but signed with the Flames shortly after. He did practically nothing in
40 AHL games prior to this season, but proved his worth putting up a point per
game, including 11 post-season points with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces to help them
win the Kelly Cup.

Elson
has this knack of being overlooked, but never counting himself out, which is
why you shouldn’t either. Especially right now.

While
the 22-year-old New Westminster, BC native isn’t the biggest guy (just 6’0”
190lbs), he plays the part of an inimical power forward well, which fits just
fine in today’s post-grinder, post-goon schema of what a fourth-liner is
expected to be. Elson’s style was on full display at the 2014 Penticton Young
Stars Tournament, then shortly after at the Flames’ training camp. Here’s a small
slice of what we saw from him throughout that month:

After
a warm-up to the regular season like that it’s no wonder Elson has become one
of the biggest surprises on the Baby Flames. It took a little while to get his
scoring touch in order (three points in his first 18 games), but in the last 21
games he’s put up nine goals and 15 points to go along with an impressive 11.7
shooting percentage. He’ll also fight if he has to, stir the pot after the
whistle, match up well defensively against other top players and is a force in
4-on-4 situations. The points are nice, but it’s his hair-trigger acceleration
and wrecking ball style combined with
his hands that could make him an interesting candidate for a post-Brandon
Bollig fourth line spot. He also has that intangible factor of being a revered
teammate and one of the first guys to volunteer for community functions. You
can fill in every spot on the checklist; he’s everything the current Flames
management group looks for in a player.

At
the moment, there are some interesting candidates running alongside Elson.
David Wolf immediately comes to mind because he possesses a freakish semi-truck
frame and a scorer’s touch. Victoria Royals’ overager Austin Carroll could
become Ville Nieminen 2.0, especially after having
tutored with one
the best pests of all time, Claude Lemieux
. Another guy to keep a keen eye
on is Garnet Hathaway. Hathaway joined the Heat at the end of last season
following his senior year at Brown University and is now on an SPC in
Adirondack. I’ll discuss him at another time. Other prospects of a similar ilk include,
Bryce Van Brabant and Tim Harrison, but they’re likely long-shots at this point.
Like I said before, it’s a fairly thin group of potential future fourth liners.

That’s
why Elson’s emergence should get people at least a little bit excited, and if it
doesn’t, you should take a couple hours out of your day to watch him play. I
assure you, you won’t regret it. Since this is Elson’s third and final year of
his entry-level deal, his upward trajectory should be enough to get him at
least an extra season in the system.

Do not sleep on Turner
Elson, because management surely isn’t.

  • I thought Elson was one of the top players at the Penticton tournament. In fact Treliving commented on Elson as one of the pleasant surprises of the tourney during his debrief.

    If Elson can find more consistency in his game he could be a long shot as a 4th line NHL centre in the future.

  • Elson looks right there in that Jooris / Byron / Bouma / Wolf mold as a guy who can really help a team win hockey games through sheer willpower.

    I don’t think we currently have space for him, but come playoff time if that’s the kind of guy we need due to injury, I’d feel pretty damn good about calling him up, he’s been dynamite lately.

    Gotta love this team’s scouting in picking up these hidden gems.

    • prendrefeu

      Gotta love this team’s scouting in picking up these hidden gems.

      Speaking of which, how is the org’s scouting system looking these days?
      Not the prospects, but the people looking for the prospects, the people with the eyes out there?

      Feaster clearly had a great scouting department being employed, and barring the issues in contract negotiations and getting people signed, the results are showing. Scouting is vital. It is what keeps Detroit a perennial powerhouse even without having to draft in the 1st round.

      How is the current Flames org doing on the scouting front? Are there plans to increase, improve, or bolster our scouts’ ability to scout?

      • Derzie

        The amateur scouting seem to be in a much better place than the pro scouting. Hard to find examples there especially with our latest pro acquisitions. Whatever the amateur scouts are doing, more of that please.

  • Turner Elson, Garnet Hathaway and Ferland are all looking like the could potentially be a Lance Bouma/ Curtis Glencross type of players. Play a up-temp physical game with a little offensive upside.

  • Greg

    Greg Nemisz. Matt Pelech. Shudder.

    That was only a few years ago we used to have to cross our fingers and hope those guys would become something. Late 1st round picks we’d have to hope like hell would pan out beyond all expectations into top line/pairing players.

    Morgan Klimchuk is probably that same caliber, but he’s not even in our top 5 prospects right now. Feels so nice to be pulling for guys who have more than a 17% chance of making the team. And hopefully that added depth gives guys like Klimchuck the time and space to develop gradually into a good support piece on the team instead of just flaming out.

  • Derzie

    Great to hear about Elson’s big leap this season, and that he has a shot at being a regular NHLer now.

    It would be awesome to hear some of our D prospect’s take a similar leap, as there is a glaring need and opportunity for someone like Sieloff, Wotherspoon, Culkin, or even Ramage to step up.

    • piscera.infada

      While the defensive prospect point is very valid, Wotherspoon has been solid by all accounts (although he’s likely a bottom-3 ceiling–you do need those players though). That Hickey kid looks to be a legit prospect, although he’s a ways away. Culkin also was taking a massive step forward prior to a very fluke injury (which it seems impossible to find any information on). Hopefully he can recover, because he was showing some real promise.