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Catching The Torch: Luke Tuch is at home in front of the net

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Pouncing on rebounds and an increase in ice time make for an impressive start.

Boston University v Massachusetts-Amherst Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

Each week we take an in-depth look at young members of the organization while providing an overview of Montreal Canadiens prospects playing at the Junior (OHL, WHL), and collegiate (NCAA) level.

Luke Tuch’s ice-time received a pretty big boost this past weekend, partly because of the time Boston University spent on the powerplay versus Vermont. Tuch has found a home in front of the net on the Terriers' man advantage where his stature and wingspan allow him to deflect pucks and pounce on rebounds.

This increase in ice-time is also attributable to Tuch’s impressive start. Since his first game in the red colors of Boston, the Habs prospect has more than delivered. He currently sits tied for first in goal scoring and third in points. The two players ahead of him, Jay O’Brien, a Flyers first-round pick who took multiple detours since the draft, and David Farrance, a senior, are expected to lead the team in points but Tuch’s push for the top is more of a surprise.

What’s helping the winger score right now is his ability to put himself in the right positions when away from the puck. He attacks along the right routes, spaces out from teammates, attacks behind the backs of defenders, and jumps into pockets of space to get his stick on the puck before defenders can react.

His line has really made the opposition pay for their turnovers by orchestrating quick attacks up ice. Both of Tuch’s goals against Boston College a week ago came from such rapid counterattacks.

On the first one, a 2-on-1, Tuch swung on the other side of the lone defender, opened up his body, and fired a one-timer past the goalie. And the second, on another rush attack, this time 2-on-2, he called for the puck early after entering the zone. His teammate didn’t pass so Tuch darted past the line of defenders, setting up a second, more dangerous passing lane at the far post. He scored a tap in.

With the puck, Tuch’s game still suffers from limitation. There are signs of progress in his passing game, sequences where he scans the ice before getting the puck and both precisely and rapidly redirects it toward a teammate ahead of him. Those give-and-gos, coupled with his ability to find space around the slot, are an effective scoring formula for Tuch in college.

That said, reaching teammates when defenders stand in the way still poses a problem for him. Sometimes, he has the right solutions to create passing lanes. He tries to fake out opponents by holding onto possession for an extra second or attempts to turn the defender’s feet and hook a pass under their stick, but the puck doesn’t land on the stick of his teammates. Instead, it hits their feet or the boards ahead of them.

Tuch will need more precision and overall crisper execution in his maneuvers before he can be called a playmaker. We should see improvements as he gets fully adjusted to the college pace.

Another area of his game that we will likely see evolve in the next few years is his physicality. I talked a bit about it in a previous edition of Catching the Torch.

Tuch landed some resounding hits in his weekend games against Vermont, including one that propulsed an opponent over the boards and into his bench to the surprise of his teammates. He also dislodged the puck a couple of times with well-timed hits deep in the opposing end on the forecheck.

He still needs to work on his skating, however, especially his straight-away speed and balance. This would allow him to win the inside track on loose pucks and protect them with his body instead of having to battle for control from an outside position every time. A lower stance on his skates would also enable him to impose his force over some of the older, stronger opponents he faces. Tuch tends to bounce on some of them.

Overall, there are a lot more positives in the play of Tuch; his production and the way he is earning those points, by attacking the net and setting up as a shooter, are good signs for his NHL future. A few of the issues in his game will get fixed by the extensive strength and posture training that college athletes usually receive.

Boston University is a good environment for the prospect. As the team has the supporting cast, the playmakers that can take advantage of Tuch’s particular skill set, we should see him continue to put up consistent numbers in this shortened season.

Brett Stapley, C, Denver Pioneers

After an impressive sophomore season where he finished third in scoring for the Denver Pioneers, Stapley hasn’t managed to stay in the lineup in his Junior year. His status remained unclear for most of the season, but we now know that he is out due to injury. According to Brad Elliot Schlossman, a college writer at the Grand Folk Herald, we won’t see the centreman on the ice for a little while.

NCAA/USHL weekly stats

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 0 0 0 0
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 0 0 0 0
Sean Farrell 2020 LW USHL Chicago 2 0 1 1
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Tri-City 0 0 0 0
Jack Smith 2020 C USHL Sioux Falls 0 0 0 0
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern 0 0 0 0
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 0 0 0 0
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 0 0 0 0
Blake Biondi 2020 C NCHC Minnesota-Duluth 0 0 0 0
Luke Tuch 2020 LW Hockey East Boston 0 0 0 0

NCAA/USHL Season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 31 30 22 52
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 31 6 7 13
Sean Farrell 2020 LW USHL Chicago 53 29 72 101
Sean Farrell (playoffs) 2020 LW USHL Chicago 6 1 4 5
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon/Tri-City 43 13 21 34
Jack Smith 2020 C USHL Sioux Falls 47 7 6 13
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern 18 2 10 12
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 19 6 13 19
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 13 5 4 9
Blake Biondi 2020 C NCHC Minnesota-Duluth 25 2 3 5
Luke Tuch 2020 LW Hockey East Boston 16 6 5 11

Goalie weekly stats

Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Jakub Dobes 2020 USHL Omaha 0-2-0 2.10 0.923 0

Goalie Season to date

Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Jakub Dobes 2020 USHL Omaha 26-16-2-1 2.48 0.908 2
Jakub Dobes (playoffs) 2020 USHL Omaha 0-2-0 2.10 0.923 0