If you’ve watched every Golden Knights game or just a few over the past four years, you’ve seen the talent level of Alex Tuch. It’s tough to miss. He’s big, fast, and incredibly skilled. Three attributes many NHL players weren’t born with.
After 255 games played with Vegas, it’s hard not to wonder if Tuch’s been used properly. A clear top-six forward on most NHL teams, the 25-year-old has been largely relegated to an inconsistent third line with no identity for four straight seasons. So when will the organization, coach Pete DeBoer, and Tuch himself, decide to make that leap and become a top scoring option for Vegas?
I’ve taken on a role of being able to move up and down the lineup. Honestly, it isn’t my decision whether or not I’m playing on the first two lines or the second two lines. I come here to do a job and that’s to play hockey and to do that to the best of my abilities. Whatever management, coaching staff feel where I should slot in the lineup that’s their decision and I’m never going to complain about that. -Alex Tuch, 06/26/21
I know he’s considered the seventh forward in the top six but it’s fair to argue if Tuch were given more shifts and better linemates he would become Vegas’ most lethal threat. I’m not ignoring Max Pacioretty’s natural ability to net pucks but Tuch is bigger, younger, and possesses a nasty release as well.
Perhaps the Misfit line’s chemistry is too consistent to break up. However, after back-to-back premature playoff exits, it’s possible there will be some roster shuffling. I’m not advocating trading a reliable two-way forward like Reilly Smith to shake things up, but to collect assets, cap relief, and create roster space it might made sense, especially with Tuch waiting in the wings.
Smith has proven that he can play at an elite level, skating both ways responsibly and leading on and off the ice. Toss in that his contract expires after the 2021-22 season, yeah, he’s a player most GM’s would have interest in.
Smith is a 0.72 points per game player in Vegas and #89 has averaged 0.56 PPG over his career. With more ice time, Tuch could match or exceed the alternate captain’s production.
I’m going to try and do my job to the best of my abilities. I’m going to continue to grow but that doesn’t mean I’m not competitive, that doesn’t mean I’m complacent about where I am. -Tuch, 06/26/21
The biggest knock on Tuch is his inability or willingness to use his size and play more physically. It’s rare when the 6’4″ winger bullies his way to the net like Mark Stone, or mixes it up after a whistle like Jonathan Marchessault, or drops an opponent like Brayden McNabb. Of course, there were instances in the playoffs but there’s no choice when it’s a street fight every night. The 220 pound forward has the size and strength to do it all, plus score 25+ goals per season.
Another concern for the organization is Tuch’s lack of production in the postseason. He totaled four goals in 19 postseason games, scoring one goal in the Colorado series and getting skunked (like Stone) against Montreal in the semifinals. Last year he posted seven goals in the first eight playoff games and the three round-robin, but followed it up with just one in the final nine games of 2020.
I do want to become more successful individually but I also want to help my team as much as possible.-Alex Tuch, 06/26/21
Tuch is a dream player to any NHL franchise. He’s charismatic, a great teammate, and was early to buy into Vegas’ system. After four seasons, it’s time for the now veteran Golden Knight to get a little more hungry. It’s inexcusable for a player with his size, skill, and speed to spend his mid-twenties on a third line.
Now is the time to see what Tuch can do on an established line with a real center.