Poturalski Finds Success In Second Season With San DiegoMar 22, 2021
By Matt Weller/SanDiegoGulls.com
In a season full of change and moving parts, San Diego Gulls right wing Andrew Poturalski's hot start offered a steady, effective presence in the lineup.
The second-year Gull ranks among the league leaders in points and assists this season, returning to his high-level play after a disappointing first year on the west coast.
Poturalski came to San Diego as a pivotal piece of the 2019 Calder Cup champion Charlotte Checkers. The Williamsville, New York native paced postseason players in points (12-11=23), goals and plus/minus (+15), earning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs.
“We had a good team, especially our forwards, and he really ran the ship for us up there, especially in the playoffs,” said Gulls defenseman Trevor Carrick, Poturalski’s teammate in Charlotte for four seasons. “Being MVP of the playoffs just goes to show you how valuable he was.”
The Anaheim Ducks took note of the performance and signed the forward to a one-year deal on the second day of free agency in June 2019.
Things got off to a frustrating start, as his initial campaign with the Gulls was grounded by injuries before it could even take off. A broken wrist in October cost him 33 games, and a late-season knee injury put him on the shelf headed into the extended offseason.
“It’s extremely frustrating, but it’s part of the sport and part of our game,” said Poturalski. “You’ve got to take it with a grain of salt, keeping moving forward and take whatever positives you can out of it.”
Determined to get back to the top of his game, the University of New Hampshire product committed to a rigorous offseason program designed by the Gulls Strength and Conditioning staff. After taking some time to let his wounds heal and getting married to his wife, Haley, Poturalski went to work, strengthening his body, spending time with a skills coach and studying film of other players.
Like many athletes he faced unique challenges in his preparation, as the pandemic caused uncertainty in when the season would begin while nearby gyms and rinks temporarily closed their doors.
“I pretty much went through my summer training twice,” Poturalski explained. “Originally, we thought it was going to be a fall start so you prepare for that. But once we realized it was going to be a little later, I took a week off, did a little reset and restarted it. You’ve got take your mind off things to not burnout.”
That hard work was immediately noticeable in camp and paid off early in the 2021 season.
“Last year, the early season injury set him back and he never really got in that groove from the success he had in Charlotte,” said Gulls assistant coach David Urquhart. “This year, he came into camp in shape and was able to build that confidence right away. I know he puts in the time and effort to improve his game. We’ve seen it, especially on the offensive side.”
Poturalski paces the Gulls in scoring (4-14=18), assists and power-play assists (6). The sixth-year pro has points in ten of his last 14 appearances, including two career-tying three-assist nights (1-3=4 on Feb. 20 and 0-3=3 on Mar. 3). He also notched his 200th career AHL point with a helper in San Diego’s win over Tucson Sunday.
“He’s got great vision,” Urquhuart explained. “He has the ability to put pucks into areas that some other players can’t do. It’s his passing and vision. The way our lineup has been this year, we’ve needed guys to spot in the top-six in different roles. It’s good to have a guy like that who can you play with anyone.”
With a year in the organization and familiar faces all around, Poturalski says his confidence continues to grow.
“I think it goes a long way, being familiar with everyone in the organization and what to expect,” he explained. “Then you can just focus on hockey and relax. This was the best shape I’ve ever been in coming into training camp. It feels good to have that hard work pay off.”
Those around him, including Urquhart, expect it continue paying off.
“He has a look in his eye this year that he isn’t going to be stopped.”