Right wing Alex Tuch of the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 team was in high demand at the 2014 NHL Scouting Combine.
Tuch is the top-rated American-born skater on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters for the 2014 NHL Draft, and No. 12 among all skaters.
The 6-foot-3, 213-pound right-handed shot had interviews with all 30 NHL teams at the Combine. He comes off a season that saw him round out his game over the second half.
"He's always been a big body and has skated well, but I think he's just starting to realize how big and strong he is," USNTDP U-18 coach Danton Cole said. "He imposes his will on the game sometimes, and that's a good compliment. If he makes it to the second round of the draft, a lot of [NHL] people made a mistake because I feel Alex is a legit first-round candidate."
Tuch is a prototypical power-forward. He skates surprisingly well for a big man and had 29 goals, 64 points and 70 penalty minutes in 61 games. He finished tied for second with eight power-play goals and was tied for first with seven game-winners.
A big moment for Tuch, who is committed to Boston College for next season, was his performance at the Five Nations Tournament in February, when he had two goals and four points in his team's four-game sweep to the title.
"That tournament win in Russia [Five Nations] shows how far we were as a team," Tuch said. "Personally I've matured as a player in all aspects of my game. I've been consistent."
Tuch credits Cole's coaching for much of his success.
"A lot of credit must go to Danton because he stuck by me and always encouraged and boosted my confidence," he said. "I've always had a level head, but the confidence I gained this year really helped my game."
Tuch played on one of the most productive lines in the history of the U-18 team, with center Jack Eichel and left wing Sonny Milano. Milano, who was second on the team with 86 points (29 goals, 57 assists) is No. 16 on Central Scouting's list, while Eichel, who had team-highs of 38 goals and 87 points, is a candidate to be the first player picked at the 2015 draft.
"Alex is a big body and that's something you can't teach," Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen said. "He's got some grit to his game and is good around the net, is physical. If you're looking for a skilled guy with magic hands you choose Milano; if you're looking for a power forward it's Tuch, so it's a matter of team needs at that slot."
Milano said he enjoyed his time with Tuch on the top unit this season.
"We complemented each other so well," Milano said. "I'm more of a skilled type of player. Tuch added the size and strength and Eichel had the speed; we all complemented each other's game. It worked out really well and it was a great line."