The Vegas Golden Knights have been full of surprises in their inaugural season. After a full month of regular season play, Vegas sits at second place in the Pacific Division with a 9-4-0 record and an average of over 3.6 goals per game.
A major part of that has to do with the emergence of rookie forward Alex Tuch.
Of course, the Golden Knights’ hot start can be attributed to many things — stellar play in net (despite the bevy of injuries to their goaltenders), secondary scoring and superb preparation by head coach Gerard Gallant. But Tuch has played a major role since being recalled by Vegas on Oct. 15.
After being assigned to the Chicago Wolves to start the season despite an impressive camp, injuries to Jonathan Marchessault and Erik Haula opened up a spot for Tuch (and Vadim Shipachyov, lol) on the Golden Knights’ roster. Immediately, Tuch made it known that he belonged in the NHL. In nine games, he has registered four goals and three helpers (three of those seven points coming on the man advantage) along with a plus-4 rating.
While Tuch’s statistics indicate a healthy start to the year, a deeper look at the numbers show how vital he’s become to the Golden Knights.
Tuch leads all Golden Knights skaters with a 64.94 overall Corsi For percentage, meaning the team is more likely to shoot pucks on net with Tuch on the ice as opposed to him off. He particularly excels in the even strength category, with Marchessault being the only forward with a higher Corsi For percentage on a level playing field (51.42).
Something the Golden Knights lacked early on was a big-bodied net-front menace to terrorize opposing goaltenders. At a hulking 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds, Tuch has filled that role seamlessly, which is positively impacting his teammates.
This particular goal by Reilly Smith against the Buffalo Sabres doesn’t happen without Tuch impeding Chad Johnson’s vision.
Same goes for this goal by Colin Miller against the St. Louis Blues (peep the bottle pop).
Of course, this style of play often results in an increased goal total. Simply “being in the way” does pay off. For instance, this power play tally off the skate against the New York Islanders.
And this tip-in goal against Buffalo.
Let’s also remember that Tuch is by no means a one-trick pony, either. He’s extremely efficient as a puck carrier through the neutral zone as well. For example:
Oh, and his shot is okay, too.
Looking back, it still seems incredible that the Minnesota Wild essentially gifted Tuch to the Golden Knights in order to protect their young defensemen in the expansion draft. Tuch was selected No. 18 overall by the Wild in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, so it’s not as if he didn’t come without significant upside.
He may only be nine games into his rookie season, but Tuch has already established himself as a major driving force behind the Golden Knights’ extraordinary start to the season. And for a player who just became old enough to consume alcohol less than six months ago, it feels pretty safe to assume the best has yet to come from the Syracuse, New York native.
Statistics courtesy of Corsica.Hockey.