Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25: Alex Tuch is a game-changer worthy of top-six role

The gifted power forward takes the top spot in our rankings.

Knights On Ice’s 2020-21 preseason Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the top 25 players under the age of 25 currently in Vegas’ system. The KOI staff created their own Top 25 Under 25 ballots. Each individual writer’s ballot was then used to generate a composite score that forms the final rankings. Note: Alex Tuch was 24 at the time of the rankings.

Alex Tuch reigns supreme atop our list of the best young players in the Vegas Golden Knights organization. Tuch was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the first round (No. 18 overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and has been a gift to the Vegas franchise since the night he was acquired.

That night was June 21, 2017. The night of the Vegas Expansion Draft.

Former Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher gift-wrapped the young stud in order to “persuade” the Golden Knights to select Erik Haula in the draft, leaving Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella and Eric Staal untouched.  Staal went on to have a career year, and Dumba remains with the team to this day, but Scandella was traded just nine days later. Haula, meanwhile, scored 29 goals as a top-six center and helped the Knights reach the Stanley Cup Final, and Tuch played a key role in the run, capping off an impressive 15-goal rookie campaign.

A gift, indeed.

No. 1: Alex Tuch

  • Age: 25*
  • Position: Right wing
  • Currently playing: Vegas Golden Knights
  • Nationality: American/

*Was 24 at time of rankings

The American winger offers a rare blend of size, speed and skill, and he has demonstrated an ability to use all three to get his way on the ice. He’s a game-changer, and he hasn’t even been given a consistent top-six role to really show what he can do.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound native of Syracuse, New York has scored 61 goals and 139 points in 249 regular-season games with Vegas, adding 19 goals and 33 points in 66 postseason games.

Tuch’s breakout performance came in Year 2 when he potted 20 goals and 32 assists for 52 points, all career-bests; not only that, but he was the team’s most important player.

He had a down year the following season (8-9—17), primarily as a result of ongoing injuries and inconsistent linemates; however, he came back with a vengeance later that season in the bubble, leading the team with eight goals (matching his total from 42 games in the regular season) and chipping in 12 points in 20 playoff games.

That level of play carried over into the 2020-21 campaign, as Tuch bounced back with 18 goals, which ranked third on the Golden Knights and put him on pace for a new career high.

Tuch has undeniable skill, and there are very few players like him in the NHL.

But one thing that often goes underappreciated is how clutch he can be. He consistently delivers in big moments, and it’s been that way throughout the last four years.

His memorable play against San Jose in the second round of Vegas’ inaugural playoff run has become a standard part of his game, as he uses his speed and skill to cut through the zone and create opportunities for his teammates and himself.

He makes a lot of plays look easy, especially when it involves splitting defenders.

His stick handling is excellent, and his breakaway speed gives him time and space to pull off goals like this on a regular basis:

Most recently, he scored a critical goal in Game 5 against Colorado when Vegas was trailing 2-0, ultimately sparking a third-period comeback for the Knights. It was a turning point in the series, and it’s another fine example of his underrated skill.

He also set up the play on Nicolas Roy’s overtime goal in Game 4 against Montreal.

Tuch does it all.

He goes to the net. He battles for pucks. He uses his speed in all three zones. He’s a great passer. He’s a great finisher. He has great hands. He can score from pretty much anywhere, though his skill set allows him to thrive in high-danger areas.

He even scored on a spin-o-rama in the outdoor game against the Avalanche.

Needless to say, Tuch is a special player, and it’s possible he has only scratched the surface.

Particularly since the acquisition of Mark Stone, Tuch has been underutilized and relegated primarily to third-line duties. He’s clearly a top-six forward, and he has lacked skilled linemates on a consistent basis, forcing him to generate his own offense.

He could be a perennial 30-goal scorer if given the opportunity, though he won’t reach that mark in the upcoming season.

That’s because the Knights announced Friday that Tuch recently underwent shoulder surgery and will be out for six months, which should include at least the 2021 portion of next season.

It’s a major blow to the Knights and to Tuch.

Fortunately for Vegas, Tuch is locked up for the next five years on a very team-friendly contract with an AAV of just $4.75 million. He has been placed on LTIR, which gives the Knights more cap flexibility.

Even when he’s not in the lineup, he’s still helping the team.

That’s Alex Tuch.

The gift that keeps on giving.

Previously in the Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25 2020-21 Series:

Honorable mention: Layton Ahac
No. 25: Jonas Rondbjerg
No. 24: Jake Leschyshyn
No. 23: Paul Cotter
No. 22: Keegan Kolesar
No. 21: Ben Jones
No. 20: Marcus Kallionkieli
No. 19: Lukas Cormier
No. 18: Pavel Dorofeyev
No. 17: Brandon Kruse
No. 16: Peter DeLiberatore
No. 15: Connor Corcoran
No. 14: Ivan Morozov
No. 13: Isaiah Saville
No. 12: Jiri Patera
No. 11: Brendan Brisson
No. 10: Dylan Coghlan
No. 9: Kaedan Korczak
No. 8: Jack Dugan
No. 7: Lucas Elvenes
No. 6: Nicolas Roy
No. 5: Nicolas Hague
No. 4: Peyton Krebs
No. 3: Zach Whitecloud
No. 2: Cody Glass