Kyle Turris signed with the Phoenix Coyotes and played in their final three games. He had one assist in those three games, but was also a -5. Phoenix's season is over, so Turris is returning to Madison to finish up this semester's classes.
When he signed, there were a lot of questions about whether or not Kyle Turris was ready for the NHL. My personal opinion is that Turris was ready for the NHL. Just looking at pure talent, he was probably the best player I saw all year. I'd even put him ahead of Blake Wheeler and T.J. Oshie in terms of NHL potential. That said, I could maybe see where some Wisconsin fans are coming from when they say he probably isn't ready. One thing Turris seemed to struggle with this year was his consistency. He only scored 2 goals in his last 18 games, and there were some nights that he didn't stand out at all.
But just because a player hasn't reached his peak yet doesn't mean he isn't ready to play in the NHL. Turris was only an 18-year-old kid this year. It should have been expected that he'd have some bouts of inconsistency, but as he starts to mature, he's going to have way more great games than poor games. I think Phoenix's thinking was that if you take a player with that much talent, and get him playing with veteran NHLers, and getting NHL coaching, the rest will take care of itself.
I also think it was good for college hockey that Turris didn't dominate in college hockey. Was Kyle Turris all that different, in terms of pure talent, from Paul Kariya? Both were kids from Vancouver that were top five draft picks going to pretty strong programs. Kariya was absolutely dominant scoring 100 points in 34 games as a freshman and winning the Hobey Baker. Obviously Turris is playing in a much different era, so he wasn't going to score 100 points, but he didn't even crack the top 50 in terms of scoring. I think that says something about how much the level of competition in college hockey has increased over the past 15 years. If Turris has been playing for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL this year, he would have dominated the league. At Wisconsin, he was a very good player, but was constantly going up against competition that was just as good, if not better than him.
Finally, Turris' signing proves a lot of the reservations I had about Wisconsin's recruiting class last season, when everyone was saying they were the hands down best recruiting class in the country. There's no doubt that they had a fine collection of talent, but the timing didn't seem to mesh well together. Most of Wisconsin's freshmen were good, but still have a ways to go before they are playing their best hockey. Players like Brendan Smith and Cody Goloubef were decent, but also seemed to have some struggles this year. Even forwards like Pat Johnson and Podge Turnbull were good, but weren't quite ready to make serious contributions this year. The problem is, by the time those players develop and become excellent college players, Turris will be playing in Phoenix. Turris helped make a down year for Wisconsin a little more respectable, but I don't think he was the asset people assumed he would be.
This brings up an interesting recruiting issue. A lot of people ask if teams will change their recruiting strategies to deal with players that will leave after just one year. I doubt you'll ever see too many teams passing over players like Kyle Turris or Erik Johnson. But the biggest issue is that teams have to recruit players like that so early that it's impossible to tell who will be a "one year player".
For example, Kyle Turris committed to Wisconsin in February 2005. I think the highest praise I had heard for him was "a potential late first round draft pick". He didn't become a potential top five pick until late in 2006. The same was true for Erik Johnson, who didn't really jump draft boards until his draft year, well after he committed to Minnesota. Similarly, some players like Tristin Llewellyn, Nick Petrecki or Jimmy Hayes that are considered top five picks early on, can slide lower in the draft, and end up being in college longer than expected.
So I don't know that there is much college teams can do to protect themselves from things like that. I don't know that they should try either. I think it's fantastic to see future great players pass through the college ranks, even if it's only for a year or two.