Commentary

Turris on his times at Wisconsin and what it's like to play for Gretzky

Updated: November 3, 2008, 11:12 AM ET
By David Amber | Special to ESPN.com

If the Phoenix Coyotes are going to make the playoffs this season, Kyle Turris will have to showcase the skills that made him the third overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft. In this week's Facing Off, the 19-year-old rookie tells us how The Great One is helping his game, why a freak injury brought him to Badger Nation and rates his chances for the Calder Trophy.

Question from David Amber: I read that as a 15-year-old in your first Junior B game, you broke your wrist with a bunch of NHL and college scouts watching. How did that experience change your hockey career?

Answer from Kyle Turris: It was my very first shift of my first game. I broke my wrist and it was pretty sad. So, my parents and I decided while I was injured to go check out some different U.S. colleges just in case I would go to school instead of playing Junior A. So, we mapped out all the schools and made a bunch of road trips to places like Boston College and Boston University, Michigan and Michigan State, and Minnesota and Wisconsin. One weekend, we went to Minnesota on a Friday, watched a game and met the coaching staff. The next day, we drove to Wisconsin and did the same thing. Right away, I fell in love with Wisconsin and knew I wanted to go there.

Kyle Turris -- Quick Facts

• In 2008, Turris led Team Canada in scoring at the World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic. The Canadians won the gold medal.

• Turris was named the 2007 Canadian Junior A player of the year.

• He led Wisconsin with 35 points in 36 games in 2007-08.

• He scored his first NHL goal on Oct. 12 against the Ducks.

Q: What was the big selling point for the Badgers?

A: Everything about it. The atmosphere was amazing. The school averages the most fans per game in the NCAA and they average more fans per game [14,500] than seven NHL teams. The coaching staff is awesome. They are always competitive and the academics are strong, too. It was an awesome time.

Q: What was the best moment you had as a Wisconsin player?

A: At the Wisconsin football games, they play this song "Jump Around" between the third and fourth quarter, and the crowd goes nuts. The whole stadium shakes; the student section filled with thousands of kids goes crazy. It's really cool. This one game, we were tied going into overtime, and at the Kohl Center, the student section is on hydraulic lifts, so they're not allowed to play "Jump Around" because it's a safety hazard. But the music guy at the arena messed up and put it on right before overtime and the place went ballistic. I'll never forget it.

Q: Did you win the game?

A: [Laughs] No, we actually didn't. It didn't work. It was cool, though.

Q: You were selected third overall behind Patrick Kane and James vanRiemsdyk. What impressed you about what Kane did in his rookie season?

A: Just how consistent he was. He got off to a great start, put up some good numbers early and most people thought he wouldn't be able to keep it up, but he did.

Q: Going into your draft year, you were ranked as the top North American skater. Why do you think Kane was selected ahead of you?

A: I guess it's just what the team wants. He proved last year he is a phenomenal hockey player and Chicago wanted him more and that's who they took.

Q: Did it bother you?

A: No, not really. I'm in an unbelievable situation right now. I love playing in Phoenix and I've got Wayne Gretzky as my coach. Not too many guys get that opportunity.

Q: What did Gretzky tell you before your first NHL game?

A: He knew how nervous I was and he came in and said, "Have fun and play your game." So I did. It was great to hear that from him; took the pressure off.

Q: What have you learned from Gretzky?

A: He is so smart in all facets of the game. He gives me all sorts of little tips here and there. He just has a great hockey mind, and with his background, you know to listen to everything he says. He actually isn't one of these coaches that yells and screams; he's very quiet, but when he says something, you listen.

Q: Your first NHL game was this past April against the Stars. What do you remember most?

A: Just being out on the ice and facing off against Mike Modano and shooting on Marty Turco. They were cool. I talked to Modano before the draws and he was being really nice to me. I even won a couple of faceoffs, so that's what I remember most.

Q: What kind of rookie hazing has there been?

A: [Laughs] None yet. I am just waiting for the big rookie dinner. The guys have been great to me so far. At the rookie dinner, I'm sure it will be payback, though. I will need to bring a credit card or two -- might be over my limit [laughs].

Q: Your father was an elite lacrosse player who is a member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. You played as a kid. How has your lacrosse background helped your hockey game?

A: It's really helped. From an early age, I learned how to spin off checks, roll off defenders and drive the net. It helped my hand-eye coordination and seeing the playing field. Lacrosse really gave me a good hockey foundation.

Q: In the preseason, I picked you to win the rookie of the year award, even though the popular pick was Steve Stamkos of the Lightning. What are your expectations for this season?

A: Oh, wow -- thanks. To be honest, I don't have any expectations. I just need to work hard and help the team win. If that means scoring goals or killing penalties or whatever, I'm willing to do that. So hopefully success will come, especially if we are winning.

Q: Everyone knows about your puck skills, your exceptional skating and hard shot, but what's the weakest part of your game?

A: My physical strength. I really need to get a lot stronger; it shows in little aspects of the game like faceoffs and fighting for loose pucks where guys are stronger on their sticks and I have to find ways around them. That's something I need to improve on.

Q: What's the first thing you bought after signing your first NHL contract?

A: First thing I did was I flew back from Phoenix to Wisconsin, and then my girlfriend and I went to Minnesota, where she's from. We went on a shopping spree at the Mall of America. I bought a bunch of clothes, because all I had at Wisconsin was a couple of T-shirts, one pair of jeans and some sweatpants.

Q: You bought her something too, I hope?

A: No. She wouldn't let me. She's an unbelievable girl.

Q: That is unbelievable. You know Mike Comrie bought his girlfriend Hilary Duff a Mercedes for her birthday.

A: Oh my god. My girlfriend isn't getting that [laughs].

ESPN reporter David Amber is a contributor to ESPN.com.