LAS VEGAS -- Playing for an NHL expansion franchise can be a complicated exercise in team building. Vegas Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch has had one comparable experience.
It was when Tuch was still a teenager, coming through the ranks and trying out for the U.S. National Team Development Program.
"We were 40 kids from all around the country and we struggled at that first year, believe me," Tuch said. "It wasn't like Vegas' start right now (4-1-0). I think we had three wins out of 35 games that first year … but the second year, we came back and were something like 28-4."
In the early going, it's come together quickly for Vegas. In fact, much faster than anyone could have anticipated.
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Tuch made his Vegas debut against the Boston Bruins on Sunday on a line with Vadim Shipachyov and Brendan Leipsic, a group Golden Knights coach Gerald Gallant put together out of sheer necessity. Two nights earlier, forwards Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault were injured in Vegas' first loss of the season, 6-3 against the Detroit Red Wings. Tuch had been playing for Chicago of the American Hockey League and was off to a solid start with five points (four goals, one assist) in three AHL games.
Video: BOS@VGK: Tuch pots first career NHL goal
Shipachyov had been assigned to Chicago but remained in Vegas to be with his wife, who is also still trying to learn English.
But the line was an instant success; Tuch and Shipachyov scored their first NHL goals to help the Golden Knights to a 3-1 victory against the Bruins at T-Mobile Arena. Vegas will host the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET, SN360, ATTSN-RM, MSG-B, NHL.TV).
Gallant was pleased with the instant impact. He explained why Shipachyov received 38 seconds of power-play time against the Bruins. On a team that is going to need to find scoring, his role on the man-advantage will likely increase going forward.
"He's a skilled and talented guy," Gallant said. "He's still learning the system over here. He didn't play much power play [Sunday] because he hasn't been with our group. But he's a guy that's going to support offense of our hockey club. I think he's going to get better as the season goes on."
Tuch already likes what he sees.
"He is super smart and can find those areas," Tuch said. "He finds me where I don't think I can be found. It's pretty special."
They were together after the game in the dressing room, posing with the pucks which were retrieved to celebrate their first NHL goals. Tuch had the assist on Shipachyov's goal with an alert centering pass after his own scoring attempt had been foiled by Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Video: BOS@VGK: Shipachyov scores in NHL debut
It was a moment of joy for two players who were not in the Golden Knights lineup on opening night.
"I was really happy for him … he's had to battle through some adversity too," Tuch said. "For him, it's a little bit of a different situation coming from Russia, barely speaking English and scores his first goal.
"He celebrated and yelled something in Russian and we were looking at him and saying, 'What?'"
Chemistry sometimes clicks instantly. In this case, what makes the start so much more extraordinary is Shipachyov and Tuch look organized and quick. Other than one bad third period against Detroit when the Golden Knights allowed four goals, they look as though they've played together for months, not days.
"Guys are buying into the Vegas Golden Knights system and honestly, they're buying into the city," said Tuch, a first-round pick (No. 18) by the Minnesota Wild in the 2014 NHL Draft who was traded to the Golden Knights on June 21 for a conditional pick and an agreement to select Haula in the NHL Expansion Draft. "That mentality going forward will help us win a lot of games."
Tuch has the ability to play up and down the lineup, an obvious asset for team like the Golden Knights.
"I'm not like the most-skilled player," he said. "I fill in a little skill once in a while and I can shoot the puck. … I just try to be that complementary-type player. I'm not that superstar-type player and I accept the role and go harder than that and do my job."