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Tufte perseveres to win Mr. Hockey Award

Blaine High School left wing named top senior skater in Minnesota

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Blaine High School left wing Riley Tufte, No. 17 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft, on Sunday was named winner of the 2016 Mr. Hockey Award as the top senior skater in Minnesota.

Tufte (6-foot-5, 205 pounds), who will attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2016-17, scored 47 goals and 78 points in 25 regular-season games, and two goals and seven points in two state playoff games for Blaine. He also had six power-play goals and 10 game-winning goals in the regular season.

Making Tufte's ascent up the Minnesota high school hockey ranks even more impressive was the fact he has had to overcome type 1 diabetes since he was 11 years old. It hasn't stopped him from realizing his dream.

"I didn't know what was going to happen to me, to be honest," Tufte said. "I didn't know how diabetes worked, and I didn't know if I could play hockey."

He never used diabetes as an excuse, and persevered to become the finest senior hockey player in the State of Hockey.

"He was the hardest worker in practice and he had a lot of joy for teammates who scored," Blaine coach Chris Carroll told "That's why he will get to the NHL. He's got a lot of character."

Tufte, who is often compared to 2010 Mr. Hockey winner and current Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad, is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2016 draft.

Tufte, born in Coor Rapids, Minn., also played 15 games for the Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League this season, scoring six goals and seven points. He also participated in the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in September.

"Seeing all the guys that have played beyond college that have won Mr. Hockey is awesome," Tufte said. "It's very exciting for me and my family."

Last season, Tufte had 23 goals and 51 points in 24 games for Blaine before playing seven games for Fargo. Tufte began this season with the Force, but returned to Blaine when the high school season began.

"Riley's got a great future ahead of him," Fargo coach Cary Eades said. "He's almost 6-6 and can skate like the wind. His game was maturing and growing here. He's adding some more stop and start to his game, a little more physicality, winning more puck battles, utilizing his size, speed, and strength to go to the net and getting to the net creating scoring chances."

At Blaine, Tufte made the varsity team as a freshman and totaled 89 goals and 167 points in 98 regular-season games in four seasons.

"I don't see him being a guy that's going to be a huge pounder and the prototypical power forward, but I see him understanding how to use his size more and make that a part of his game because he's going to have to be a successful player in the NHL," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "There's going to be that sweet spot somewhere in between that skilled and power forward for him in my mind. Maybe it's a Rick Nash-type of player where he has unreal hands for a big guy but can eventually understand he's using his size because it can give him such an advantage."

Previous Mr. Hockey Award winners include Bjugstad, New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy (2009), New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh (2007), San Jose Sharks defenseman Paul Martin (2000), and former NHL forwards Trent Klatt (1989) and Tom Chorske (1985).

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