Yesterday, Alex Turcotte, one of the premiere Bantams in the country this past season, verbally committed to Tony Granato’s Wisconsin Badgers. In Alex, the Turcotte family, who run Turcotte Hockey School, a series of specialized hockey instruction clinics throughout the US and Canada, will see the third generation of their family make hockey headlines. Alex’s father, Alfie, played for Portland in the WHL, was drafted in the first round of the 1983 NHL Draft by the Montreal Canadians and went on to have a 16-year professional career at different levels of professional hockey. Alex’s grandfather, Real Turcotte, played at Michigan State and his Uncle, Jeff, played for the Marlies in the OHL.
Growing up in a house with a former first round pick has some obvious advantages, but it also has some disadvantages, you can’t hide your mistakes from a trained eye. “My parents never put any pressure on me, they just want me to have fun and play as hard as I can. The guidance and support from my Dad, being a former pro, has benefited me a great deal. He knows what it takes to play at the next level and has taught me everything I know in hockey. Without him, this probably wouldn’t be possible and that goes for my whole family from my grandpa to my uncles to everyone else.”
However, Alex typically talks things over with his dad after games to hear the good, the bad and everything in between. As a testament to Alex’s coach-ability, Alex treasures these conversations and credits these one-on-one coaching moments for making him the player he is.
“After every game we talk. He gives me his input on both the things he liked about my game and the areas I need to improve. It’s always constructive and supportive; he never puts me down or impedes my confidence, he just points out areas of my game that need work.”
They talk about the mental aspects of the game, teamwork, competitiveness, leadership, etc. What separates Alex from some of the other kids his age is not only the lessons he’s learning in the car, but his ability to translate those teachable moments the ice.
Alex grew up playing youth hockey in Michigan and as a Bantam minor he played for Honeybaked. The following year his family moved from Michigan to the Chicago area as his father took a head coaching job with the Chicago Young Americans. “Moving to Chicago was a big change. New school, new friends, new everything. From a hockey perspective it was different from the year before because I knew everyone at Honeybaked and with Chicago [Young Americans] I didn’t know anyone. It ended up being a pretty easy transition in the end and the kids on the team were really accepting and good to me.”
After his stellar season, where he averaged more than two points per game, scoring 65 goals and 85 assists over 70 contests, he received a lot of attention from college coaches. He visited Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State; all of whom offered him a scholarship. He also got an offer from North Dakota but didn’t get a chance to visit. Instead of resting on his laurels he was on the ice almost every day this summer helping out at the Turcotte Hockey Clinics and working on his game for the USA Development Camp in Buffalo. “I drove to Buffalo from Michigan the day of camp and while I knew there would be a lot of eyes on me, I was surprisingly relaxed. I knew I was ready and prepared. I was confident and anxious to get on the ice and play and luckily I got off to a good start and played well in the first game and used that momentum throughout the rest of camp.”
While Turcotte was already a well-known commodity heading into the camp, the Select 15’s is different animal. At the Select 15’s, the players, for the first time in their career, will compete with and against the other top prospects throughout the country. It was his first big test; a test he aced. Alex finished the camp as one of the highest ranked prospects in attendance. “Personally natty camp was one of the most fun weeks of hockey I ever had. I met a lot of new people and made new friends. Playing against the best kids in the country let me know where I stood and I felt good about myself afterwards. It was just a great experience.” Alex ended the week tied for fourth in the entire camp in points with a 1-4-5 line in 3 games. He plays a fast, aggressive game with high level hockey sense, smooth yet strong hands and ability to both score or set up off the rush.
When Alex returned home from camp he got a call from Boston College. “That was pretty cool getting a call from BC, similar to North Dakota, but I knew I wanted to play in the Big 10 so I didn’t visit either school.” He was already leaning towards Wisconsin before he even stepped foot in Buffalo for the Development Camp but after that experience it became even more clear that he wanted to become a Badger. “I talked everything over with my advisor (Pat Brissone), and he was on board with my decision. We then called Coach Granato and told him I was ready to commit. I’ll remember that conversation the rest of my life. I was so happy and excited and he was too. It was an amazing feeling to be wanted by such a great school and hockey program.”
The Wisconsin staff has every reason to be excited with this verbal commitment because, after a sub .500 season, they just locked down one of the best kids in the country for his age group. So why Wisconsin over some of the more recently successful programs? “For starters it’s a beautiful campus. The school, the people, the facilities are all top notch. It’s close to home for me and when I was walking around on our tour I felt at home. The coaches also played a big role. They are three of the most accomplished coaches in the game, they are good people and were very good to me throughout the process. I really feel like it is the perfect fit for me as a person, as a student and as a hockey player.”
While his commitment has been an incredible rewarding and gratifying moment for Alex and his family; he also talked about it being a relief. “Being committed takes a lot of the pressure off of having to impress scouts and having to worry about everything that goes into the recruiting process. I really enjoyed the whole process and visiting all the schools, but it’s also nice to have that behind me and know where I will be playing in the future.”
Next season Alex will move from the Young Americans to the Chicago Mission U16 team. It will be his third team in three years, but this time he has a clear goal in mind. “I want to win Nationals. I want to help make my team be the best in the country. The Mission have a great coaching (Geno Cavalini) and great players which will give us a shot to be successful.” Alex missed out on Nationals last year because the Young American’s didn’t qualify and, if he has anything to do with it, that won’t happen again.
With the college commitment out of the way he now sets his sights on earning a spot to the US National Development Team. A long, highly competitive process that has already begun this past season. “Jeremiah Crowe [Assistant Director of Player Personnel with NTDP] has been in contact with me since the first showcase of the season. He watches me play and then we talk about my game and things I can work on to get better. While I haven’t met Mr. Hardy [Director of Player Personnel with NTDP] yet, he was one of the first people to congratulate me on my commitment to Wisconsin. They are always trying to help you get better and I really appreciate that.”
Alex is aware of the “early commitment” debate that exists in the hockey community and when asked if he would take it easy now that he’s committed, it was very clear that while he is happy, he isn’t content. “Now that I have the commitment, I have to go out and earn it every day which mean’s working twice as hard. They can pull that commitment away if I don’t hold up my end so I am going to do everything I can over the next few years to prove I deserve it.”
Alex is expected to enroll in 2019 but that will depend on how he develops over the next few years. While his parents were very proud of his accomplishment, his father, true to form, told him that this was just the start and he had a long way yet to go. Which brought us to our last question. What is the dream?
“I know I have pretty lofty dreams but the end goal is to play in the NHL. I don’t just want to make it; I want to be a top player there.”
Alex will return home and work at the Hockey Academy before playing with the Chicago Mission in the fall. He is training during the off-season, but, given his age, he focuses solely on body weight exercises instead of lifting weights.
Wisconsin, since completing their coaching staff this summer, is on a recruiting surge which, in the last week alone, includes commitments from some of the top players in the country in Mathieu De St Phalle (3.75-star) , Patrick Keegan (4.25-star) and now Alex Turcotte (4.5-star), a third generation hockey star.
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images