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'Veteran' of Stars' development camp, Tufte using summer to improve

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound first-round pick has come a long way since being selected by Dallas in 2016

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Riley Tufte watched the draft on television this year, cheering for his University of Minnesota-Duluth teammate Scott Perunovich, who was taken 45th overall by St. Louis.

It brought back some of the nervous memories of when he was taken 25th overall by Dallas in 2016, but also showed just how far he has come in two years.

 

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"When you're watching, you go back to that experience," Tufte said. "I was pretty nervous at the time, but it's a pretty cool feeling for your family and yourself. It's a lot to take in."

Just like Development Camp this week in Frisco. It was the third time Tufte has been in attendance, so he's now a "veteran" of sorts at age 20.

"I remember my first year I came in and didn't know what to expect -- it's nerve wracking," Tufte said. "Now, you try to be the older guy for the guys out thereand see if they need anything."

Video: Stars bring virtual reality to Development Camp

Tufte already has had a long and winding career. He was drafted out of Minnesota High School hockey and then went straight to UM-D. He battled through injury in his freshman season and then took off as a sophomore. This past season, he led the Bulldogs with 16 goals in 42 games and helped them win the NCAA National Championship.

That's a pretty big year.

"He took a big step forward. He was a big part of that team that won a national championship. Now, he wants an expanded role," said Rich Peverley, the Stars' Player Development Coordinator. "He's way more mature. He's getting bigger, he's filling out his frame, he's a more mature person when you talk to him."

Tufte has a huge frame at 6-foot-6 and is now listed at 220 pounds. That gives him the ability to get to the front of the net or dig in the corners and earn the "hard" goals.

"On the ice, he's learning his role more," Peverley said. "I think he still had some high school habits in him in his first year, he wanted to play a skill game when he's more of a power forward. He's starting to change, and there were games when he would just dominate."

Video: Nill speaks about importance of Development Camp

Tufte had a tough decision. He could have come out of college and tried to make the NHL roster, but he said he feels good with his progress in Minnesota and believes he can develop even further this upcoming season. The college game is played mostly on the weekends, and that leaves a lot of time for practice and strength building.

"I think I'll have a bigger role," Tufte said. "I'll be able to do more work on the penalty kill, play in all situations, I think this will help me become a better leader and just a better all-around player."

That said, he still enjoys his time with the Stars, which is limited by NCAA rules.

"You're playing with different players, which is nice," Tufte said of the week of workouts in Frisco with his fellow Stars draft picks. "You're getting a different experience from college, working on skills you don't usually work on. It's challenging and a lot of fun."

And just another reminder of how far he has come in two years -- and what waits ahead.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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