After being taken 18th overall Friday by the Minnesota Wild, forward Alex Tuch said he was relieved, if not a little surprised.
It wasn’t as though Tuch wasn’t prepared to be selected in the top-20 overall — many mock drafts had him pegged somewhere in the top-15 picks. It was more the destination and the Wild, who Tuch said remained relatively quiet about their interest.
“They stood back in the shadows a little bit,” Tuch said. “I was kind of surprised that they picked me but really happy they picked me because it’s such a great organization with a good winning culture and a lot of great players.”
Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said he was surprised to find Tuch still available at 18, and with a number of potential trades presenting themselves as the pick drew closer, Fletcher said Tuch’s combination of size and skill was simply too much to pass up.
“We truly couldn’t believe he was there,” Fletcher said. “There were some tempting offers to move back, but Alex has that rare combination of size and skill. This guy can skate, he’s big and strong, can shoot the puck and he’s going to be a handful for people to defend against.”
Tuch, the top-ranked American skater available in the draft, is a big, right-shot winger that profiles as a power forward at the NHL level.
At 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds, Tuch uses his size well by playing a gritty, physical game around the net. Asked to compare his game to a current NHLer, Tuch said he models himself after Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler and St. Louis Blues captain and Minnesota native David Backes.
“I’m a big, strong power forward, very versatile, highly skilled, heavy shot,” Tuch said. “I use my body, but I also play in three ends of the ice.”
“He's a big strong winger with quality hands and an NHL shot. We feel that he has tremendous upside,” Wild Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr said. “We are very excited to add a potential power forward to our group of prospects.”
A native of Baldwinsville, N.Y., Tuch was tied for the team lead with seven game-winning goals last season and was a plus-35. He was third on the team with 64 points, including 29 goals, in 61 games.
Tuch helped lead Team USA to a gold medal in the 2014 Under-18 World Championships and also won a bronze medal in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2013. He was also on the U.S. team that finished first at the 2012 Four Nations Tournament.
"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 told NHL.com "He imposes his will on the game sometimes, and that's a good compliment.”
A meat-and-potatoes-type player, Tuch is not an elite skater but moves extremely well for his size. He’s also a high-character player with a high hockey IQ.
Tuch will begin his college career this fall at Boston College, where he will be a teammate of Wild draft pick Adam Gilmour, a fourth round selection by Minnesota in 2012.
“It’s really been my dream school since I watched them win the national title back in 2001,” Tuch said. “Everything fit; the coaching, the school, everything.”