What Do The Ottawa Senators Have In Kyle Turris?


In today’s NHL, fans are always clamoring for their team to get a big number one centre that can play against other teams top lines. People expect to have a Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, or Anze Kopitar on their first line or else that player is deemed not a first line player. There are some pretty unrealistic and unfair expectations for centres around the league playing on the top line.

Kyle Turris has never been seen as a first line centre, although after he was drafted 3rd overall in 2007 by the (then) Phoenix Coyotes, he had tons of potential. Now that he has been with the Senators for 3 and a half years, what does Ottawa have in Turris? It’s an interesting topic, because some people may actually be underrating him a bit.

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Defining Top Line Centre

First of all, let’s go over what a first line centre actually is. We’re not talking about a star player that is a constant MVP candidate. All we’re defining is a centreman that is amongst the best 30 in the league. Theoretically, each team should have one that produces about 60+ points. But in reality several teams have two and a few have none.

It’s pretty simple to understand, although many people seem to think that a first line player only includes the cream of the crop. But actually, there are 90 players that can be loosely defined as first liners which includes 30 centres.

Where Does Turris Rank?

I went to Hockey Reference’s play index, and looked up point totals for centres in the past two seasons. Here is what the top 30 looks like:

I’ve kindly highlighted where Turris ranks on this list, which is at a solid 18th. He’s ahead of players like Eric Staal, Logan Couture, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, while being right there with Henrik Sedin, Tyler Johnson, and Matt Duchene. The name that’s only 4 spots higher than him is none other than former Captain Jason Spezza.

In the past 164 games, he is showing that he can keep up with the big boys

By just looking at this past season, he also ranked 18th with 64 points and two more ahead of Spezza. Now this list may seem like cherry-picking a bit because it only includes Turris’ two best seasons, but these past two seasons he has made a major stride forward. I wouldn’t have made an argument for him being a top line centre a couple of years ago, because he simply wasn’t. When the Senators acquired him, he was still a quality second line player but had a ways to go. But now in the past 164 games, he is showing that he can keep up with the big boys.

His raw point totals may also be a bit misleading, and they paint him in a slightly better picture than they should. In terms of points per game, he actually ranks 25th amongst centres. Still, that’s very impressive though and in the top 30 once again.

In terms of actual on-ice production, he’s sitting pretty amongst the leagues best. But let’s take a look at his HERO chart:

This graph doesn’t show him quite as well as the point totals do, but it still shows a productive player. He has been a positive possession-wise in his tenure in Ottawa, but it’s obvious that he gives up quite a lot of shot attempts while on the ice. Also, his offensive rates suggest what the media thinks: that he’s very close to being a first line player.

But if you look at his assists per 60, points per 60, and shots on goal per 60, they are so close to being in that next zone. Although I have used these graphs in the past, I’ll admit they aren’t perfect. And with his raw point totals I have to give him an extra nudge into the first liner territory. Also, this graph shows his totals from the past three seasons, so I’m not sure how much better he would look if it were just 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Apr 5, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators forward Kyle Turris (7) carries the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Ottawa 3-2 in an overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

So What Is He Then?

The media and many fans will commonly say that Ottawa lacks a true number one centre, and that they need someone who is bigger and produce more points. In terms of point production, that’s just simply false. The Senators have a centre who is in the top 15-30 in scoring for centres, so they have been getting solid production there. Would it be great to get a bigger and more powerful centre that can carry the team? Sure, but the Ryan Getzlaf‘s and Steven Stamkos‘ of the world aren’t just being offered for nothing.

It’s extremely hard to find a first line centre, and the only way Ottawa will get (another) one is via the draft. I still feel that Turris is a fantastic option for the Senators on the first line, and I am totally comfortable with him playing against top players especially because I am confident that Mika Zibanejad will continue to improve his game.

If you say that he is a fringe first line player, then you aren’t totally wrong. If that’s how you feel, then it’ll be hard to convince you otherwise. Nevertheless, Turris has been giving Ottawa amazing production for specifically the last two seasons and he’s a great option on the first line moving forward.

As of now it’s not set in stone that he is a legitimate first line centre, but by next year we may have a more complete answer. If Zibanejad can take another big leap forward then perhaps Ottawa can have a vaunted one-two combo that teams dream of.

Next: Are The Senators Going To Do Anything Come Free Agency?