Written by Judd Spicer
If six-month-old Morrison Poturalski has his way, his daddy will eventually “Break on Through” as a full-time NHL player.
In the interim, Coachella Valley Firebirds’ center Andrew Poturalski is having another stellar season in the AHL, serving as an alternate captain in the team’s debut season.
Now in his eighth year of pro hockey, Poturalski, a native of Williamsville, New York, inked a two-year, one-way contract with the Kraken this summer past. Skating toward his 29th birthday in January, the married, newly-minted father (whose son is, yes, named after Doors’ frontman, Jim Morrison) has authored one of the AHL’s most impressive C.V.’s in recent memory.
While striving to build upon an NHL resume which includes but four games across separate season for the Carolina Hurricanes (2017 and ’21, respectively), Poturalski doesn’t take “You’ve had a great AHL career” as any kind of backhanded compliment.
“This is a very high level, and I take pride in what I’ve accomplished. But I’d remiss if I didn’t say that I work to move up to the NHL; and I think basically every guy on our roster would say the same thing,” Poturalski says. “Everyone is chasing to get there, and it’s very hard for most to get that NHL opportunity and something very few guys get the chance to do. You just have to keep working to earn that chance and then make the most of it when it comes.”
A Hobey Baker Award finalist while at the University of New Hampshire in 2016, Poturalski’s pro hockey career has been one of continued productivity. Following 52 and 49-point seasons for the Hurricanes’ Charlotte AHL affiliate in 2017 and ’18, Poturalski would lead the Checkers to a Calder Cup crown in the 2019 season, earning playoff MVP honors along the way. After a pair of pandemic-shortened AHL seasons with the San Diego Gulls (AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks), Poturalski’s superb ’22 resulted in a league-leading 101 points for the champion Chicago Wolves, making him the first player in the AHL to crack the scoring century mark in a dozen years.
The league’s two-year COVID pauses of AHL title play in both 2020 and ’21 considered, Poturalski has won the past two American Hockey League scoring titles and lifted the league’s last two Calder Cups.
Not that Poturalski is satisfied with his accomplishments to-date.
“If you just reflect on your past success, sit back and relax, you’re gonna’ get passed over; in any pro sport,” he says. “And I’m not the type of guy who is going to let that happen.”
Balancing his enthusiasm for the Firebirds’ maiden flight with a ceaseless drive to make his NHL dreams a reality, Poturalski has no descent in desire to make it to the game’s top rung.
“It comes with a competitive mindset; that’s how I was raised. And no matter what I’m doing, whether it’s hockey, golf, playing cards, playing Scrabble with my wife – I want to win,” he says. “And we play this game to play at this highest level, so, yeah, obviously I want to play in the NHL. That’s the goal, and always has been since I was a kid. It’s what I work for every day. If you don’t want to work to get better, you’ll fizzle out at this level.”
With past equaling prologue, Poturalski’s small sample time with the Firebirds is far from fizzle. Through 27 games and a stellar 18-6-3 team mark, he’s tallied eight goals and 22 assists, good for a team-high 30 points.
“New team, new season, new franchise; a lot of new things going on and guys weren’t quite sure what to expect, but it’s been a pretty good start so far and we need to build on it,” enthuses Poturalski, known as “Potsy” to his pals. “It’s a lot of new pieces coming together fast, but everybody has bought in and Coach Bylsma has got us on the same page. It really is a good group of guys, and coach has made it fun to come to the rink everyday.”
Working toward a Kraken call-up, Poturalski is relishing his time with the Firebirds, along with the opportunity to help define a new franchise in a new market.
As for his own “home” team, “Light My Fire(bird)” could become a family anthem.
“We call him ‘Mojo’ for short,” smiles Poturalski, referencing Morrison. “My father-in-law, he would always play The Doors when my wife was growing up; she got hooked on them and eventually got me hooked, too. We just thought it was a really cool name and thought it fit.”
Eager to lead the Firebirds into Acrisure Arena’s maiden year, Poturalski is equally enthused for his son to see him beyond the valley’s sun.
“I want my son to see me play in the NHL,” Poturalski concludes. “I just think it would be so cool for him to see that, have an appreciation for that; it’s a side of the business that people don’t always see or think about, but it really puts things in perspective. It’s things like that which keep me going.”