It's easy to forget Alex Tuch was cut by the Vegas Golden Knights to begin this season and sent to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL by GM George McPhee.
McPhee had too many one-way contracts on the books and not enough waiver exempt players when camp broke. So Tuch, despite having a strong training camp, got the dreaded call into the GM's office.
"Well it was disappointing, I knew the position (McPhee) was in. A lot of guys couldn't be sent down because of waivers and stuff like that. I was waiver-exempt, so I understood the position he was in," recalled Tuch, sitting in a stall in the visitor's dressing room at San Jose's SAP Center. "He said it was a very tough decision to make. He'd have to send me down, and honestly, I just wanted to go to the American League and prove that I was an NHL hockey player. It was a good time down there too. It was a week, two weeks with a good group of guys and a good coaching staff and stuff. I had a little bit of success down there. There were a couple of injuries that allowed me to get called up and I guess they were in the position where I played well enough that they didn't want to send me down. So, honestly it couldn't have worked out any better. I didn't mind missing a couple games up here, I would've loved to be here for the inaugural first home game and stuff like that, but it's been an unbelievable year so far."
Unbelievable, indeed. Tuch scored 15 goals and totaled 37 points in 78 NHL regular season games. In the post-season, he has totaled four goals and seven points in nine games. The 6-4 and 222-pound 21-year-old is discovering more about himself and his ability to dominate with every game.
In Game 5 of the Golden Knights second round series with the San Jose Sharks, Tuch buried two goals to lead his club to a 5-3 win and put Vegas on the cusp of a Western Conference Final berth.
Tuch agreed to a quick chat on Saturday afternoon following a prep skate for today's Game 6.
Thoughts on what it's like scoring two goals in a Stanley Cup Playoff game…
It's pretty surreal right now, playing in the NHL Playoffs. Honestly, I couldn't have asked for anything more. This group of guys I'm with has really been unbelievable to me. They treat me like family. I think we've become a family in the locker room. We have a lot of fun on and off the ice. Being a rookie, sometimes it's kind of hard even though everyone's coming from different spots. It's extremely unbelievable and I couldn't be any more thankful for this and this opportunity.
Thoughts on the second goal in Game 5…
Pretty breathtaking, honestly. My phone is blowing up. I'm talking to my parents after the game, they stayed up until 1, 1:30 eastern time to see the game. My dad told me that's the best pro hockey game he's ever seen me play. So, it was something, that really hits home. Doing it during the Stanley Cup Playoffs is something that's really special. My work is not done, that's always been my mentality and that'll always be my mentality moving forward.
Thoughts on when your confidence started to grow…
Yeah, I mean at times I was figuring out how to score goals or how to continue to play more or honestly, I was worried about staying in the lineup at first and stuff like that. But I think I have to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff, they give you a lot of room to grow, a ton of good coaching. They let me play out there and it's really helped my confidence and it's really helped my game a lot. I can't be the player I am today without their help.
Thoughts on what your ceiling is…
I'm not too sure, I don't really think about that to be honest. I just think about the next game and being the best I can be, honestly. My dad and I talk a lot and my mentality is always shift by shift. I'm not worried about how I was when I was in training camp, I wasn't worried about how many points I'd have in the NHL. I was worried about making the team and trying to stick on the team and stuff. Even during the season, I was worried about game by game. I mean sometimes you get away from that a little bit and your game declines a little bit, but I think I've grown a lot and learned a lot this year. You just have to worry about the shift you're on in the game and how you're going to play next. The veterans in this locker room have really showed me their way and I think it's really helped me a lot.
Thoughts on things you can improve on in terms of skill development, strength and conditioning…
I mean there's little touches and stuff. I think my speed is one of my best assets but it's combining that with shooting at a high speed or making plays at a high speed. There's stuff I've kind of learned throughout the NHL, what the right play to make is, when to take someone one-on-one, when to pull up, stuff like that. Honestly a lot of it is learning how to play with different types of guys and how playing with Cody Eakin is different than playing with James Neal. They're going to be in different areas and stuff like that. I've worked with Ryan Craig a lot on net front stuff, close stuff in play and stuff like that that I think really helped me. I had a goal close in and he gave it to me a little bit, in Game 4 I wasn't in front of the net enough, I wasn't on Jones and I thought I did a very good job of that in Game 5.
Viewing notes: Game 6 is set for Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in San Jose and can be seen on NBCSN.
Dan D'Uva has the radio call on 98.9 FM and 1340 AM.
Check out VGK Pregame on the Vegas Golden Knights official Facebook page with Dave Goucher, Shane Hnidy and Gary Lawless. The Facebook Live cast begins at 3:30 p.m.
Immediately following the game - fans are encouraged to flip over to ATT&T Sportsnet for the Golden Knights Post-game Show featuring Goucher, Hnidy, Conor McGahey, Eric Lacroix, Aly Lozoff and Lawless.
Watch Party: The Vegas Golden Knights will host a watch party for game six of the Stanley Cup playoffs outside on Toshiba Plaza, located outside T-Mobile Arena, on Sunday, May 6.
The cost of admission is free, and fans are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket to watch the game on the large mesh screen outside T-Mobile Arena. Activities on Toshiba Plaza will include corn hole, a shooting cage and a March to the Fortress as done on home game days.
Fans heading to the watch party at Toshiba Plaza can park for free at the New York-New York parking garage.
The game starts at 4:30 p.m. PT, and fans are encouraged to arrive to Toshiba Plaza by 3:30 p.m. Parking options will be available at New York-New York Hotel.
The Park, located adjacent to Toshiba Plaza, also will amplify the viewing party experience by adding two additional areas for fans to watch the game - one next to Bliss Dance and the other near the North Doors of New York-New York next to Beerhaus. Food and drink specials as well as a variety of games and activations will also be offered throughout The Park.
Those in attendance at the watch party will have the chance to win a variety of Vegas Golden Knights prizes. The events will feature special appearances by Chance, the Golden Aces, Knight Line presented by Drumbots and the Golden Knight. Fans will have the chance to shop Golden Knights gear from retail trucks on-site, and there will also be a face painter on-site.
If fans can't make it to Toshiba Plaza, they are encouraged to stop by Henderson Pavilion (200 S. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson NV) to watch the game.
The matchup information for the watch party is below:
-Sunday, May 6: Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks, 4:30 p.m. PT; watch party on Toshiba Plaza, outside of T-Mobile Arena