Freshly reassigned by the Calgary Flames and with a contract in his back pocket, Turner Elson might have been suffering from the dreaded ‘pro-camp hangover’ as the Red Deer Rebels posted a 2-2 record through the first nine days of the WHL season.
To be fair, Elson has appeared in only two and one-third games with the Rebels this fall after suffering what the team referred to as an ‘upper-body’ injury during the first period of the season-opener Sept. 23.
He sat out the Rebels’ second game, then rejoined the club for weekend contests — both losses — at Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
His stats sheet resembles a mostly empty ledger, followed by a chilly temperature — three games played, no goals, no assists, no points and a minus-5.
Elson admitted Tuesday that he has yet to properly reacquaint himself to the major junior game after skating with present and future NHLers.
“The game is played at such a high level at an NHL camp and guys are on you so fast. When you come back to junior you still feel like you don’t have as much time to make a play and you maybe start to hurry things,” said Elson.
“The injury held me up a bit, but I can’t use that as an excuse. I was healthy enough to play last weekend.”
The third-year forward knows he’ll be counted on as a go-to guy — both in terms of scoring and leadership — this season with the loss of offensive front-runners Byron Froese, Andrej Kudrna and possibly Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and he’s relishing the challenge.
“We’ve lost some great players like Ryan, Froese and (former captain/defenceman Colin) Archer, players like that. We don’t have the talent that we had last year but we still have a lot of returning players and it’s up to guys like myself, Adam (current captain) Kambeitz and John Persson to get the job done,” Elson acknowledged.
“We also have a lot of new faces this season and we have to help the younger guys get accustomed to the league.”
Elson admitted he didn’t harbour thoughts of signing a pro contract — which ultimately was a three-year, two-way deal — when he attended the Flames rookie camp as a free agent.
“I just went into camp hoping to play well. I realized that it was a good opportunity for myself, especially playing in the prospects tournament where other teams could see me,” he said, in reference to the Young Guns event at Penticton, B.C., which featured hopefuls from five clubs — the Flames, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.
“I hadn’t expected to get a contract but I played well in the rookie camp and the tournament, and then in main camp. I got to play in the one (preseason) game against Vancouver and did enough things right to get a contract.”
The feisty, five-foot-11, 185-pound winger is looking to find his form this weekend with games Friday versus the Hitmen at Calgary and Saturday against the visiting Kootenay Ice.
“Both teams are in our division. We have to get all four points and get back on a winning track,” he said.
The Rebels will be minus the services of Brooks Maxwell for roughly six weeks after the promising rookie forward suffered a broken wrist Saturday at Prince Albert.