Spring Lake Park senior Nick Turbitt ranks among the state's top 10 returning scorers heading into the 2010-11 season. Photo by Helen Nelson
Spring Lake Park’s hockey program never has been considered a state powerhouse, but it has had its moments. Producing St. Louis Blues standout and U.S. Olympian David Backes isn’t a bad accomplishment. Neither is landing three players on an Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League team.
One of those Panthers players in the Elite League this fall was Nick Turbitt. We recently caught up with Turbitt and asked him about Spring Lake Park’s biggest rival, what he enjoys most about high school hockey and what it is like to skate with one of the NHL’s biggest stars.
Question: What's the best part of playing high school hockey and why?
Answer: You get to go other places and play other teams. There are some great rivalry games that you don’t get to see at other levels. Playing on the road in front of the other team’s student section is great.
Q: Who is that big rival for Spring Lake Park?
A: Totino-Grace. Everyone is always prepared for them and it gets really physical. You have to be ready to play them or you’re going to get killed. Whoever wins is who wants it more.
Q: How have you done against the Eagles that past few years?
A: We’ve only beaten them a few times. Last year, we lost to them both times we played. The year before, we did beat them once. But we feel we have a good chance this year, if we come out ready.
Q: Do you think Spring Lake Park can make a run in the Section 4A playoffs and maybe challenge everybody’s favorite, St. Thomas Academy?
A: We thought we could do it last year, but we had a tough first-round loss (to South St. Paul). We’ll be more prepared this year, with 10 returning players and a new goaltender. We’re hoping to get a No. 2 or No. 3 seed.
Q: Give me a short scouting report on yourself as a player. What are your strengths?
A: I’m a hard-working and physical player. I know when to pass the puck and I know where other guys are most of the time out on the ice. And when I get a good scoring chance, I usually put it in.
Q: What kind of training do you do for hockey, both in- and off-season, and how has that improved your game?
A: In the off-season, the high school hockey team has a summer camp that I play in. I work out every day, lift weights and skate every other day. Then about a month before the season started, I played in the (Upper Midwest) Elite (High School Hockey) League.
Nick Turbitt was the Panthers' top scorer last season with 59 points in 26 games. Photo by Helen Nelson
Q: How was your experience in the Elite League? Did it prepare you for the upcoming season?
A: It was a really great experience. Speed-wise and with hard work, it really helped me know my role in the future. We (Team Northeast) started off slowly, but took second place in the playoffs.
Q: What was the reason your Elite team, which was the seventh seed entering the playoffs, ended up upsetting two other teams and playing for the championship (which it lost against Team Great Plains)?
A: We were just in the right places and back-checked hard all the time. We didn’t let up on any shift in the playoffs.
Q: Has anyone talked to you about your future plans after high school?
A: Last year, I talked to the Alaska Avalanche (North American Hockey League) coach, but they’re the only team I’ve talked to so far.
Q: Was there any chance you weren’t going to come back for your senior year at Spring Lake Park?
A: No. No chance.
Q: What other activities do you participate in at Spring Lake Park?
A: I play varsity baseball. Last year, I mainly pitched and played right field.
Q: Have you always played in the Spring Lake Park system? Did you grow up in town and play through the youth ranks?
A: Yes, I did. It’s fun knowing the other players like I do who came through with me. It’s fun to stay with your friends and play together, not leave for other high schools just to play hockey.
Q: Spring Lake Park has had a few successful seasons and some great players have come through the program. Do you ever get visits from guys like the St. Louis Blues’ David Backes and what do you pick up from them?
A: Backes comes back in the summer and skates with us a little bit and so does Addison DeBoer (now with Laredo of the Central Hockey League). They shoot a lot harder and are a lot better skaters. Everything is just faster with them.
Q: Tell me about the outlook for your team this year. Why will you have a good season?
A: (Our strength) is probably our defense. We lost only one defenseman and the guys we have are pretty steady, but mostly defensive defensemen. They pass the puck well and give us chances to score. They should really help with a new goaltender (after starter Mike Nelson graduated).
Nick Turbitt scored twice and had an assist in Spring Lake Park's 5-3 section quarterfinal loss to South St. Paul last season. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen
School: Spring Lake Park
Weight: 174 pounds
Credentials: Turbitt scored 22 goals and added 37 assists in 26 games to lead the Panthers in scoring last season. His 56 regular season points from last season ranks eighth in the state among returning players. Turbitt played for Team Northeast in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League and had eight goals and two assists in 24 games.
College commitment: None. Turbitt has had contact with a North American Hockey League team and likely is headed to a junior league team after high school.