The Review-Journal presents its “Roster Review” series, which will examine each Golden Knights player’s current production and future outlook in alphabetical order. Tuesday: Right wing Alex Tuch.
Tuch was the Knights’ unquestioned breakout performer of 2018-19.
The 6-foot-4-inch forward took massive strides that seemed to almost immediately justify the seven-year extension he signed shortly after the season began. He backed defenders off with his speed. He beat goaltenders with his skill. He seemed on his way to becoming one of the best young wings in the NHL.
He had a case for being the Knights’ All-Star and led the team with 43 points at the trade deadline. Then the progress stopped.
Once Mark Stone’s arrival bumped Tuch to the third line, his production dipped. He had 11 points in his last 26 games, including the two he scored in the Knights’ seven-game playoff series with the San Jose Sharks.
Tuch couldn’t find his stride again after his late-season dip last spring. His chemistry with former Knights third-line center Cody Eakin never seemed to develop.
The team was outscored 11-6 when the two were on the ice together at five-on-five.
Tuch also struggled this year when asked to play on his off wing multiple times. He spent time with center William Karlsson and right wing Reilly Smith on the first line but never fit in. And lines with him at left wing and rookie Cody Glass (a natural center) at right wing didn’t seem to work either.
Even when Tuch did appear to settle into a rhythm at right wing or otherwise, an injury always seemed to derail any momentum he had. The Syracuse, New York, native has played 42 of the Knights’ 71 games so far.
Because of that, he’s gone from scoring a career-high 52 points last season to just 17 this year.
Tuch, for all his struggles this season, just turned 24 on May 10.
He’s still a very young player with a combination of size and skill most people can only dream of having. His $4.75 million annual cap hit isn’t onerous, either. It’s tied for the 209th highest among NHL players this season.
So, the Knights can afford to be patient with Tuch and hope 2018-19 is a stronger indicator of his potential than 2019-20. There’s still so much room for him to improve, especially if he finds a center he clicks with.
His passing and vision can still get better. He could up his physicality a notch and be harder on the forecheck. And if he does that, he’ll be well on his way to once again becoming a player with All-Star potential.
“Maybe it’s just an inch here or an inch there, but the bottom line is I’ve just got to be better,” Tuch said in January.
Alex Tuch file
— Age: 24
— Birthplace: Syracuse, New York
— Height/Weight: 6-4/220
— Position: RW
— Shoots: Right
— Number: 89
— Nickname: Tuchy
— 2019-20 stats: 42 games, eight goals, nine assists