Looking back at it, the makeup of the expansion draft rules always played into the favor of the Vegas Golden Knights. While most have taken this season as a shocker, that has been due to comparing Vegas to former expansion teams.
A quick breakdown of the roster and that should have told you otherwise.
Vegas uses loophole to their advantage
Vegas is loaded with former top round draft picks, who were struggling to find playing time with their original team. One loophole that Vegas exploited well, was acquiring players and draft picks in exchange for not selected certain players (or to specifically take one).
The Columbus Blue Jackets gave up a draft pick to guarantee that Vegas will select William Karlsson. That turned out pretty well for them.
Another player was Alex Tuch, a former first-round pick for the Minnesota Wild, who had yet to truly get his chance in the NHL. With the Wild having a surplus of NHL defensemen, they wanted to ensure that one wasn’t selected, so they offered up Tuch instead.
Due to him being exempt from waivers, Tuch didn’t start the season with Vegas, but he quickly made his way to top squad, and his front-net presence has him playing a key role for the Golden Knights.
In fact, that same presence was ever-apparent against the Colorado Avalanche, as it played a factor in two Golden Knights’ goals as Vegas clinched a playoff spot in their inaugural season.
Here, Tuch is able to fight off Erik Johnson and get to a bouncing puck before Carl Soderberg does, hammering home his 14th goal of the season. Later, on the power play once again, Tuch provided a perfect screen on goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who had absolutely no chance at stopping the Jonathan Marchessault shot.
From Boston College to Vegas
Tuch was drafted 14th overall by the Wild back in 2014, ahead of players like Robby Fabbri, Adrian Kempe, and David Pastrnak.
In two years at Boston College, Tuch scored 32 goals with the Golden Eagles, playing with players like Colin White, Thatcher Demko, and Ian McCoshen. His freshman season, Tuch led BC in scoring, registering 28 points (14-G, 14-A).
Turning pro after his second season, Tuch scored 37 points (18-G, 19-A) with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League (AHL). He also got into six NHL games, failing to score a point in any of the contests.
This season, after getting sent down, Tuch quickly made the case to be recalled, scoring four goals in just three games before getting recalled to Vegas.
While Tuch isn’t going to challenge for the rookie scoring lead, he has shown the ability to use his size to his advantage far better than some at his age. Tuch is 16th among rookies in scoring while playing less than 15 minutes per game.
He has shown the ability to create for himself, placing fourth on Vegas in 5v5 individual scoring chances per 60 minutes played.
Tuch’s size has helped elevate him to the top power unit in Vegas, and he currently places seventh in man-advantage time on ice among rookies, despite only registering eight points in those situations.
Vegas has been the feel-good story of the year, but it really shouldn’t be. They have some serious talent on the roster and Tuch is emerging as one of them.
With the game centering around speed and skill, with the best player in the league also one of the fastest to ever play, it’s easy to forget about the guys who make their living around the front of the net.
What makes Tuch so special is that he is a pain in front of the net, but he has the skill to play on the outside as well.
Minnesota had to do what they had to do at the time, but it has to hurt knowing they gave up a draft pick AND Tuch for nothing at this point.
Vegas will gladly take it, as they get to watch one of the best young power forward prospects grow right in front of them.
How do you feel about Tuch’s play this season? Are the storylines of Vegas being the biggest surprise this season overblown? Let us know in the comment section below.