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