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The Long Haul: Turner Elson is Worth Keeping

Marissa Baecker

Each prospect brings something different to a team. There is a reason, however unintelligible, each prospect was chosen by a team to join their organization. Turner Elson is one of those prospects that might not make much sense as a choice at first glance. He didn't have an amazing junior career, he wasn't drafted by any team to join their system during his draft eligible years, but he was still signed by the Flames as a free agent in 2012.

What Elson can bring to the Flames organization is different from what most might look for on a first glance. He's not a standout player capable of changing the direction of the game any more than any solid player is. What Elson brings to the Flames is simple: work ethic, leadership, and more than a little potential.

Background

Turner Elson was the captain of the Red Deer Rebels during the 2012-2013 season. Since then, he has played on a variety of Flames affiliates at the AHL and ECHL levels, having a good deal of success in the process. Elson was part of a successful Alaska Aces team which won the Kelly Cup championship. Elson has managed to find his scoring touch in the AHL this season with 30 points in 59 games.

Elson's continual development seems to be likely; he has improved each season he has been in the Flames system, going as far as to be called up to continue his growth as a black ace during the 2014-2015 Flames playoff run. What is next in Elson's growth will determine whether or not he can carve out a continued place in the Flames organization.

Improved Production

Elson's production improved each year he played for the Red Deer Rebels. His improvement in the WHL in no way compares to the increase by 10 times that occurred between his first and second seasons in the AHL, but it is significant. Obviously, Elson's production is not going to increase by such a steep margin every year, but it is enough to create questions about what Elson's point production will look like going forward. This is where it is helpful to look to Elson's history in the WHL. Perhaps, Elson's production will increase along the more modest curve found in Elson's WHL performance.

It is impossible to know if Elson's point production will continue to grow, but it is important to note it has already reached an acceptable level for a player expected to play the role he fits into in the Flames organization, which is to provide energy and be a bottom six player. Even if Elson stays as a 30 point player in the AHL, he looks like a likely prospect to eventually become one of the Flames' bottom six.

Leadership Ability

Elson developed his leadership potential with the Red Deer Rebels as their captain in his last WHL season. Though his team finished out of the playoffs, Elson was incredibly well-spoken and thankful for his time in Red Deer. Elson was grateful for the opportunities afforded to him and the accountability and work ethic demanded of the next stage of his career.

Elson's leadership and work ethic can be seen in the eagerness in which he has approached any opportunity the Flames have offered him. He has maintained the type of positive attitude towards challenges which is exactly the type of attitude a leader is expected to have. Every challenge is looked at as a learning opportunity and Elson wants to become a leader for the organization. These type of qualities are exciting to see in prospects starting to make their mark for the Flames.

Truculence

It seems odd to bring truculence up as a positive when Flames prospects up until now have been panned for being one dimensional players with a game based solely in their ability to fight, but since Elson's game is about more than throwing punches an exception can be made for him.

Elson has an impressive willingness to enter the fray on behalf of teammates and to change the course of the game. He collected a respectable four fights in the AHL last season, continuing a trend of being unwilling to give ground that dates back to his time in the WHL.

While Elson seems well suited to the enforcer role, he is also capable of skating at a competitive level, putting up points, and creating chances which makes him more valuable than the typical enforcer who has his roster spot to protect the skill players.

Elson also has a notable amount of heart and luck, escaping a concussion scare in his last season. It would be ideal if he could use more physical play and less outright fighting in the future to protect both his future and the Flames investment.

Conclusion

Elson is not the type of player who appears to be destined for the NHL at first glance; however, he has shown during his time in developmental leagues that he can absorb new skills and techniques. Elson has shown growth in point production and an enviable work ethic that has made him a contender for a bottom six position for the Flames at some point in the future.

His point production has increased by 10 times between his first and second seasons in the AHL, he was part of a Kelly Cup winning ECHL team, and has been a leader since his time in the WHL. Elson has used his time to learn to score, win, and lead others. All of these make him a tempting young talent for the Flames to develop over the next few years.

Elson also isn't an expensive asset to develop. He's a good investment for the Flames as, much like Austin Carroll, he's able to contribute without costing the Flames much. It's a low risk proposition that might yet yield a high return. If Elson's development continues to be as strong as it was in the last year of his ELC, it would be a good idea for the Flames to re-sign him and continue to develop his talent.

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