Wild select forward Tuch with 1st pick
By Chad Graff
St. Paul Pioneer Press
PHILADELPHIA — In the hours leading to the first round of the NHL draft Friday night, Alex Tuch was joking with his pal Jack Glover of Golden Valley about the possibility of one of them being selected by the Wild.
Glover is a big Wild fan. So Tuch, a teammate of Glover with the U.S. Development Team, joked about what it would be like if either were drafted by Glover’s favorite team.
Tuch didn’t expect to be. The Wild hadn’t expressed much interest in him.
In fact, the Wild had plenty of interest in Tuch and turned down several offers to move back in the draft and acquire extra picks to instead take Tuch with the 18th pick, the Wild’s first-round selection.
“To be honest, we didn’t think he was going to fall to us,” Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr said. “We looked at options to move back, adding picks, getting solid offers, but we couldn’t refuse taking this kid.”
Added general manager Chuck Fletcher: “We went with quality over quantity.”
The Wild’s perceived lack of interest in Tuch, 18, also was a smokescreen, Flahr said, to prevent other teams from learning of the Wild’s strong interest in Tuch.
In many ways, Tuch is what the Wild’s farm system lacks. He is a big winger, listed at 6 feet 3, 220 pounds.
“He’s a big power forward, and those are hard to come by,” Flahr said. “He’s got a good set of hands, he’s got an NHL shot, and we think he’s got tremendous upside — a great kid. We’re very excited.”
Tuch said he was relieved to hear his name called by the Wild.
“It’s a dream come true,” Tuch said.
His hockey dreams started as a child in upstate New York when he lived next door to Buffalo Sabres center Tim Connolly. He became a fan of Connolly, and the two occasionally spent time on Tuch’s backyard rink together.
His career evolved, and he spent the past two seasons with the U.S. Development Team, which churned out three first-round picks Friday night. On that team with Tuch were several Minnesotans who frequently told him about the passion for hockey there.
“They just love Minnesota,” Tuch said.
He watched Wild games with those friends from Minnesota and said he likes the way the Wild play.
Like many players drafted Friday night, Tuch is still a few years away from reaching the NHL. He is committed to play at powerhouse Boston College in the fall.
In 61 games with the U-18 U.S. Development Team last season, Tuch scored 29 goals and recorded 35 assists, while accumulating 64 penalty minutes.
“Alex is that rare combination of size and skill,” Fletcher said.
Though Tuch is known for his size, he made a point of saying he can play in any area.
“I’m a big, strong power forward,” he said. “Very versatile, highly skilled, heavy shot. I use my body, but I also play all three ends of the ice.”
After turning down several offers that would have yielded more picks, the Wild will look at options to add more picks Saturday when the final six rounds are held.
But after trading away last year’s first-round pick, they took a player they felt has great potential — even if they didn’t let him know ahead of time that they were interested.
“They weren’t too popular,” Tuch said. “They stood back in the shadows a little bit. I was kind of surprised when they picked me, but I’m really happy they did.
“I think I’ll fit in. I think I’ll bring my size and presence on the ice and make room for my linemates.”
No Minnesotans were drafted in the first round. Upwards of 20 Minnesotans could get drafted today. … No goalies were drafted in the first round.
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