A Big Part Of The Golden Knights Success This Season Belongs To Alex Tuch
The Vegas Golden Knights have battled through injuries and suspensions all season long. Nate Schmidt missed the first 20 games after he was suspended for violating the National Hockey League’s performance-enhancing substances policy. Erik Haula has been out since November 6th after having right knee surgery. And Paul Stastny missed 30 games with a lower-body injury earlier in the year.
They had a slow start to the season but have fought through the injuries and poor luck and yet have still held down a playoff spot for months. The Arizona Coyotes have put on a push recently, but Vegas has been comfortably in a divisional playoff spot since around December.
Vegas has been able to have success despite these setbacks because several of their players have stepped up and elevated their game this season. One of the best examples of that has been the play of Alex Tuch and the season he has had.
Tuch currently has 43 points in 56 games this season, which is six more points than he had all of last year in 22 fewer games. He’s seen almost a two-minute increase in ice time-per-game from 15:15 last season to 17:05 this year and has taken advantage of the added opportunity with guys out of the lineup. He leads the Golden Knights in 5v5 Points/60 at 2.56 (well over 1st line rate) and before Mark Stone was acquired, he led the team in total 5v5 points with 33. A couple notable names that Tuch is ahead of are Nicklas Backstrom (32), David Pastrnak (30), Mathew Barzal (29), and Vladimir Tarasenko (28) who have all played the same or more games.
Everything Coming Together
Tuch has always had the raw skills and has shown them in the past, but he’s really put it all together offensively this season. A big man at 6’4”, he is smooth with the puck and moving up ice. He’s got great speed and agility as well as hands that work with his feet. He’s aggressive on the forecheck and uses his size and reach to break up plays by the opposition.
Vegas’ aggressive puck possession style and strong transition game fit perfectly with what Tuch brings to the table. Transitioning the puck up ice is always something he’s been good at and he’s continued to get better. The sample size is a little small in the graphic I linked to below, but he has averaged more controlled exits and entries per 60 minutes this season.
He has a very good shot and he’s finding ways to use it even more this season. His shots per game is up from 2.19 last season to 2.41 this year at all strengths. When Tuch has been on the ice at 5v5, Vegas controls 53% of shots, 56% of goals and 55% of scoring chances. His most frequent linemates this season have been Max Pacioretty and Stastny. That line controls 56% of shots and 59% of scoring chances, though they’ve had some bad luck for stretches this season, with a 45% goal share and a 0.952 PDO.
Another part of Tuch’s game that has improved is his penalty differential. Last season at all strengths, he drew only five penalties and took 12 (-7). This year, he’s drawn 11 penalties while only taking three (+8). He’s putting Vegas at an advantage way more often than he’s putting them at a disadvantage, which will obviously increase your chances of out shooting, outscoring and winning each night.
George McPhee made a lot of brilliant moves at the Expansion Draft and his agreement with Minnesota to take Tuch so that they would pick Haula (who’s also had a great season prior to injury) was one of if not McPhee’s finest transaction. Haula had 29 goals last season, and this year had seven points in 15 games before getting hurt. McPhee took advantage of Minnesota’s cap situation and in return they got two top-six forwards for the price of one.
Alex Tuch’s great season has given Vegas more options in terms of scoring when everyone is healthy. When Haula is back, and now that Stone has been acquired, it will be interesting to see how Tuch’s role changes in terms of ice time and usage. However, Tuch’s been a beast this season and he’s played a big role in Vegas’ success and with guys coming back, he’s made them an even deeper team going into the playoffs.
All stats found from:
Where I found Tuch’s zone entry/exit numbers:
Featured Photo Image Credit: Josh Tessler