Turris handles pressure

ADAM WAZNY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

He's an attractive, pre-season favourite for the Calder Trophy.

His style of play has drawn comparisons to Joe Sakic.

His coach is Wayne Gretzky.

And his team, the financially troubled Phoenix Coyotes, are counting on him to develop as fast as the game itself. They've already penciled him in as the No. 2 centre, hoping he can lead an exciting youth movement that will vault the organization back into the post-season dance. It seems a five-year playoff drought has done more damage to the perception of the Coyotes operation than the hot weather and hockey indifference.

DOESN'T KNOW ANY BETTER

Yes, Kyle Turris should be feeling the pressure but fortunately for him and the Phoenix franchise, he's only 19 years old and may be too young to let the above stresses of being a can't miss hockey talent get to him. Or maybe, as his brief three-game NHL audition at the tail end of last season tells us, he just doesn't know any better yet.

"I remember my first game," a cool Turris said before boarding a plane in Arizona yesterday afternoon. Turris, Gretzky and other members of the Coyotes are in Winnipeg to take on the Calgary Flames in an exhibition tilt at MTS Centre today (7:30 p.m.)

"I was in total shock and awe of the whole situation. I lined up against Mike Modano ... I didn't even look at the puck when it was dropped, I was looking at him the whole time. Now, I feel pretty good out there. I didn't even notice (the pressure) in the game against L.A. (Monday night) ... I'm getting more comfortable."

Potential franchise saviour aside, the New Westminster, BC-product has impressed observers to this point. He possesses a nice stride, an accurate shot, and much like his head coach, he finds a way to make the play without taking a big hit. And as his play in the World Junior tournament last winter suggests (a team-leading eight points and a gold medal finish), he can handle the pressure on the ice.

Plus, he has the ear of the greatest player to ever play the game.

"When I came here last year, (Coach Gretzky) took me aside and told me not to worry about anything," Turris said. "He told me to just have some fun out on the ice and don't worry about the things you can't control. Coming into the season, I've kept that thought in my head. Just have some fun playing."

Off the ice is where concern sits for the 6-foot-1, 180-pound centre as the Calder talk, the high draft stature (third overall in the 2007 Entry Draft), the comparisons to Hall of Famers all contribute to the pressurized cell he's about to live in, a life that has taken many can't-miss prospects off their projected course.

How does Turris think he's handling it all?

"I'm just trying to make the team first," the youngster laughed. "We'll deal with that other stuff later."


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