As the Predators attempt to retool their hockey team in preparation for an increasingly unlikely playoff push, John Hynes is making a surprising move with forward Kyle Turris.

You may remember Kyle Turris as the player that Peter Laviolette healthy scratched for seven straight games earlier this season. This led to the the infamous “just a lineup decision” remark by Laviolette when prompted for an explanation.

It was a strange turn in what has been a very disappointing year for Kyle Turris. It was also a frustrating moment for Predators fans who want to see their expensive assets used to help the team win games.

But John Hynes seems to be changing all that.

Kyle Turris: Penalty Killer?

While Turris has mostly been used as an offensive playmaking forward during his time with the Predators, Hynes seems to be using him more as a two-way forward. His defensive zone starts have gone up from 27% under Laviolette to 35% under Hynes, but it’s Turris’ penalty kill usage that’s seen the most dramatic increase.

Kyle Turris hasn’t been used as a penalty killing forward with any regularity since his days with Ottawa, and even then his use was sporadic. He saw the most minutes on the penalty kill during the 2013-14 season, playing over 142 minutes there, but since then never more than 60 minutes a season. For reference, veteran penalty killer Nick Bonino averages around 150 minutes on that unit every year.

Turris’ usage on the penalty kill dropped even more under Peter Laviolette. In 153 games under Laviolette, Turris played a total of 9:28 on the penalty kill. In other words, he really only killed penalties if the team was desperate due to an injury, or if the usual penalty killers were in the box already.

Fast forward to now. In eight games under John Hynes, Turris has already played over eight minutes on the penalty kill. At that rate, over the next couple games, Turris will have more penalty kill minutes under Hynes than he did in over two years with Laviolette.

And the strangest thing of all: it seems to be working.

It’s a small sample size, but in the eight minutes he’s played on the penalty kill, the Preds have yet to allow a power play goal. They’ve even scored a shorthanded goal with Turris on that unit, when Ryan Johansen jumped on a loose puck in the neutral zone and put one by Braden Holtby.

While Turris’ skill-set as a lankier, more vision-focused playmaking center differs greatly from the grittier, more physical penalty killers like Nick Bonino or Austin Watson, ultimately it’s Turris’ skating and puck skills that make him a good fit for the unit. His vision helps him anticipate plays by the other team and his skating and puck skills help him get the puck out of the zone.

Increased role for Kyle Turris

As in any sport, the currency that all players in the NHL understand is playing time. Praise is welcome, comments in the media are nice, but it’s playing time that really determines how a coach feels about you as a player.

We saw what happened with Peter Laviolette and Kyle Turris in regards to playing time. In benching him for two weeks, and then slotting him in a limited fourth line role, it’s clear that Laviolette did not think highly of Turris as a player, even though he was effusive about Turris’ leadership on the team and high quality personality in the locker room.

So far it looks like John Hynes has just the opposite opinion.

In 34 games this season under Laviolette, Turris played an average of 14:19 minutes. That has jumped to 14:48 minutes under Hynes already in just eight games. I suspect it will continue to increase, given what we saw Wednesday in Washington D.C. where Turris led all Predators forwards with 20:46 minutes.

How will Turris respond with this increased role? So far he seems to be just fine, though we will need to see more from him at the offensive end of the ice. Turris has only four points in 11 January games thus far. With his $6 million price tag and his offensive abilities, despite his increased defensive workload, the Predators will need to see more from him in that department.

Don’t forget that Kyle Turris knows his abilities. He pointed this out back in December after returning to the lineup and scoring a goal and an assist against Tampa.

But it’s nice to see John Hynes is starting to reinvent Kyle Turris for the Predators, as he could be pivotal factor for the team as they make a run for the playoffs.

— Stats via Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick. Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —

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