Kyle Turris playing with a flourish

Rory Boylen
Kyle Turris

Though Kyle Turris continues to rise as a key contributor on a budding Ottawa Senators team, it’s easy to forget he once struggled to crack the Phoenix Coyotes lineup.

The third-overall pick in 2007, Turris has gradually ascended as a producer, but the more trust the Senators put in him, the more they’re getting out of their pivot. Turris was the leader in average ice time among Ottawa forwards last season and was holding that position halfway through December.

“Just getting that opportunity has been huge,” he said.

Turris has been a key part of the Senators since being acquired in 2011 for David Rundblad and a second round pick. He never made it through a full NHL season with the Coyotes without being dispatched to San Antonio, their American League affiliate at the time. He topped out at 11 goals and 25 points in 65 games during 2010-11 with Phoenix, but has surpassed those totals every season in Ottawa, including this one, in fewer games. Getting the chance to be a go-to guy has a lot to do with that, but so does last year’s Jack Adams Award winner, coach Paul MacLean.

“He’s been awesome,” Turris said. “He’s taught me so much here to help my game and the guys all love him. He’s such a great coach and a great teacher for the guys.”

Phoenix will always hold a special place in Turris’ heart, since it’s the franchise that drafted him, the one he played his first NHL game with and, of course, because he was coached by Wayne Gretzky there. But the competitor in Turris admits it did get frustrating at times trying to find his way into a more pronounced role with the Coyotes. Thankfully for him, it’s been a fit in Ottawa since Day 1.

While Turris was on pace for a career year, Ottawa has had trouble matching its surprise success of last season. Turris has been pulling his share of the load and believes the Senators aren’t far from where they were in 2012-13, when they made the playoffs despite having several stars injured.

“We’re still finding ourselves, but we’ve shown flashes where we’ve played the hockey we’ve wanted,” he said. “We just need to get more in sync like we were last year, but we have a great group. Spezza is a great captain and leader and there’s lots of chemistry in the room.”

This feature originally appeared in the January 20 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.