Signed as an undrafted free agent out of the Red Deer Rebels organization, Turner Elson has put in a solid four years of professional service to the Calgary Flames. Over that time, he’s played just about everywhere possible: graduating from the WHL, playing in the AHL, winning a championship after being demoted to the ECHL, securing an AHL spot, and finally, getting in his first NHL game (and his first NHL point to go with it).
It’s been quite the ride for Elson, and since winning the Kelly Cup with the Alaska Aces, he’s been a pretty consistent player. But is that enough?
The 2014-15 season was Elson’s first full year playing in the AHL. He scored 30 points over 59 games. This season, Elson matched those 30 points, but over 63 games with the Stockton Heat: a couple fewer goals, a few more assists, same number of points, four more games played. At 23 years old, he’s now put together two remarkably consistent back-to-back seasons offensively.
Elson was fifth on the Heat in scoring, with just one more point than Emile Poirier in three more games played. (This excludes Hunter Shinkaruk, who came to the team late; if you include his totals, Elson was sixth in team scoring.) He had 159 shots on net throughout the year: about 2.5 per game, and fourth on the Heat.
In the NHL, Elson played just one game: a meaningless season finale against the Minnesota Wild. He was the last of several Flames prospective forwards to be called up, and in his game, he played 14:54 – sixth out of all Flames forwards in ice time. He received no powerplay time, but 2:59 of his ice time was on the penalty kill as the Flames’ fourth-most used forward.
Elson had no shots on net in his one game. He threw two hits and picked up an assist, and that was it. His most common linemates were Johnny Gaudreau and Drew Shore (and Sean Monahan, before he got injured early on). He finished a 5v5 18.75% CF player, the worst on the Flames that particular game.
Impact on team
Elson was one of the Heat’s more effective players at generating offence. He had a shooting percentage of 8.8%, which was roughly the amount Poirier shot at, and a bit more accurate than guys like Freddie Hamilton and Drew Shore, but well behind Kenny Agostino, Shinkaruk, and Derek Grant (the top offensive weapons the Heat had at their disposal). His shooting percentage dropped from the 2014-15 season, so it’s entirely possible he might have deserved more goals than he actually ended up with.
Still, this points more towards problems with the Heat’s lack of depth than it does to any prowess Elson may hold. Being one of the top scorers on your team is great; having only 30 points to get there, a little less so. Him being one of the Heat’s more frequent shooters is a good personal sign for him, though.
In the intangibles department, Elson wore an ‘A’ for the Heat all season, and was one of the younger players to do so. His style of game is very much that of the typical fourth liner with strong leadership qualities: hard hitting, physical, penalty killing, probably not a star but everything you love about solid depth players on the roster. There’s something to be said for that, particularly when wondering just what his ceiling may be.
What comes next?
A restricted free agent, Elson is in need of a new contract, and there’s no guarantee the Flames qualify him. What he offers to the table is pretty good, but not particularly unique, especially not where the Flames are concerned: they have plenty of fourth line options in both the NHL and minors who do much of what Elson does.
Then again, how many of them have worn a letter for their team? With strong defensive play and consistent offensive numbers, Elson might just be worth bringing back, though it’s likely his best case scenario ceiling is that of a fourth liner in the NHL, should he be able to make it that far.
There are worse things to be, though. Elson will only be 24 years old to start next season, and he’s pushed his way through juniors and the minors to have success. The Heat had a disappointing season overall, but with Elson recognizing that, he might be a good guy to keep around – particularly as he doesn’t seem to be someone about to rest on non-existent laurels any time soon.