Recently called up from AHL-Ontario, Bjornfot and Turcotte touch on their games as they return to the Kings

It was a whirlwind Thursday for defender Tobias Bjornfoot and forward Alex Turcotte.

Both players were coming off a straight set in Colorado with the AHL’s Ontario team, the Kings’ biggest affiliate on the road, in a tough spot to win. After matches on Tuesday and Wednesday, the two players were on their regular flight back to Los Angeles, though their plans changed quickly. Both players knew upon landing that they would be on their way to the NHL, and joined the Kings that evening at the Arena and on their upcoming six-game trip to the East Coast.

Neither player played last night for the Kings, which would have been three games in three nights, though Turcotte did take a warm-up before the game. Both will now be looking for a potential opportunity next in a six-game trip that starts with three games in four nights, starting tomorrow night in Nashville. Kings Head coach Todd McClellan spoke about both players and potential opportunities yesterday.

McClellan on Beurinfoot
When Toby had the chance, he got some experience here, he’s a left-handed shooter and he has to give us some real good minutes on both ends of the rink. He was able to do that in the American League and we expect that here.

McClellan on Turcotte
He’s been doing a good job. Every time the Turc gets a little traction and starts, something happens with the injury. There’s no one to blame, you can’t blame Turc, you can’t blame anyone, it just happens. The important thing for him, individually, is to get traction, to have a bunch of toys under your belt, and to feel good. You won’t be perfect every night but start to feel good about your game and apply it night after night after night.

Turcotte and Bjornfot have the common trait of being both selected in the first round together during the 2019 NHL Draft. The duo joins Samuel Fagemo, Arthur Kaliyev, and Jordan Spence as players selected from that class to be on the Kings’ active roster this season. The Kings are the only organization in the league to have five players from the 2019 draft class in multiple NHL games.

Although they share a common background, they are both different players, with different skills, and capable of making different forms of contribution. Bjornfot is a two-way defender who is at his best when active and aggressive with his legs, while Turcotte is a versatile striker, capable of playing in the middle and wing, with an energetic and energetic style of play when at his best.

Starting with Bjornfot, he is usually deployed as a paired first defenseman at the AHL level, skating a pair with Spence used to defend the opposition’s top players most nights.

“When we’re on our game and feeling good, I think we can be one of the best couples in the AHL,” Bjornfoot said of his stint in the AHL. “Some nights it’s about consistency and we have to be at our best to do that.”

McClellan complimented Bjornfoot’s skating ability, both offensively and defensively, when he was playing his best hockey. When the Swede is on his game, he resolutely uses this ability both in defense and in attack. In his time with Ontario this season, he’s been used a lot on special teams, including some power play time recently, as he did when he was last in the AHL at long in the 2019-20 season.

As his level of comfort and confidence rises, so does his level of performance and production.

“I feel good in Zone D and try to be more involved in the offensive side of the game,” he said. “I’ve got to play a little bit in the power game and feel more comfortable with the puck, and more confident.”

Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images

As a left defenseman, Bjornfot has the ability to offer something the Kings don’t, a right-left combination, though it’s not a given that a team would go that route just to do so. However, with three games in four nights, and the Kings not always looking to use Alex Edler for every game during those situations, Bjornfot will need to be ready when his potential opportunity comes.

At Turcotte, this is his first NHL call-up for the season. Turcotte made eight preseason appearances with the Kings, appearing immediately after the furlough break to center the team’s second line in the absence of Philippe Danault, who was in COVID protocol at the time. Although he has struggled through several setbacks this season and is currently suffering from a few stitches after his lip hit a brace in Colorado, Turcotte is healthy and back with the big club, looking to make an impact.

The Illinois native has been strong at the AHL level lately, with Ontario head coach Marco Storm completing his game several times after recent performances. Even if this is not all that will be counted on with the big club, Turcotte’s production has also been good, scoring three goals and six points over his last five games. Today he talked about making more plays when he holds the puck on his stick and feeling more comfortable and confident doing so.

When asked where his game has taken a step forward, he said, “I’d probably say I hold the puck and be comfortable pinching your stick a lot.” “We try to make plays all the time, not just throw them away, play with confidence, try to be comfortable playing. I think that’s something I’ve focused on and I think I’ve seen some good results in matches lately.”

The element that Turcotte brings that can help him when entering a lineup is his versatility.

Although he has developed almost exclusively as a centre, Turcotte has played a good amount on the wing this season with the Reign. With two-time AHL MVP TJ Tynan at the top of the lineup, as well as Quinton Byfield and Rasmus Kupari at various times this season, the minutes on the wing have sometimes been easy to come by for others, including Turcotte. While he certainly has more experience playing the position, he was grateful how much he could play on the wing because it could open new doors for him at the NHL level.

“Yeah, it’s definitely nice to be versatile and to be able to help the team in different ways,” he said. “That’s why I’m so grateful to play the wing there, I’ve been playing QB for a good number of games, so it’s been nice to learn that part and add that to my game. If they need me here on the wing, I’ll be available anytime.”

When he returned to the NHL, Turcotte spoke candidly about enjoying hockey at the moment, having lost as much time as he has over the past two seasons. There’s something to be said there, for a highly regarded prospect, who will now do everything he can to take what he did and learn at the AHL level and translate it to the Kings.

“I think I was just enjoying the game,” he said. “I’ve missed a lot of time in the last couple of years, so I just try to enjoy it, have fun and deal with good situations. I just have a lot of fun and I think when you enjoy what you do, you get better results.”

Very short practice today, Insiders. Gabi Velarde was on the ice with the main group after missing last night’s game with an undisclosed injury. Good signs there. Velarde appeared to have reunited with his fellow regulars – Blake Lizotte and Kevin Fiala – after the Kings elected to lift Fiala into the top six last night against Dallas. Quinton Byfield is back in place with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe. More to follow tomorrow morning from Nashville, as we see how things change.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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