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2021 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: #14 Luke Tuch

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The 2020 second-round pick rises up the rankings after a solid NCAA debut.

2021 NCAA Division I Mens Ice Hockey Championship - Northeast Regional Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

Luke Tuch was a surprising second-round pick when the Montreal Canadiens drafted him in 2020. The big-bodied 6’2”, 203lb brother of Vegas Golden Knights forward Alex was known for his physical play, but there were questions to how much offence would be a part of his game.

Elite Prospects

In his first NCAA season at Boston University, he almost matched his output while playing with the United States Development Program in the USHL, scoring six goals and adding five assists for 11 points in 16 games.

The NCAA is not known to be a freshman’s league, so Tuch’s 11 points — placing him third in team scoring — is notable and was enough to move him up the rankings and improve the potential role that many could see him play He was also a two-time Hockey East Rookie of the Week, and had a two-goal game in a 3-1 upset win over #1 Boston College in February.

Voting

Tuch’s rankings were consistently in the top-25. The variance was somewhat wide with 10 spots between his top and bottom ranking. Ironically, even when factoring in the improved position he received due to Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s post-ballot departure, only three of the 11 ballots had him higher than his final placement.

As someone who had him in the bottom compared to other ballots, he definitely moved up for me, and I was impressed with his small sample in the NCAA. My optimism is somewhat measured compared to other prospects I had ahead of him.

I was definitely intrigued by his first NCAA season, but before putting him higher I would like to see what he can do for an encore.

Top 25 Under 25 History

Tuch debuted in the Top 25 Under 25 at #24 a year ago. After his good season in the NCAA, and some key departures ahead of him, he moves up 10 spots which is the third highest jump in this year’s ranking.

History of #14

Year #14
Year #14
2020 Josh Brook
2019 Jesse Ylönen
2018 Will Bitten
2017 Ryan Poehling
2016 Will Bitten
2015 Christian Thomas
2014 Martin Réway
2013 Michael McCarron
2012 Aaron Palushaj
2011 Brendan Gallagher
2010 Ben Maxwell

Strengths

You don’t show up with the size that Tuch does down the left wing without having an edge to your game. That was his calling card entering the draft, and there’s no reason to stop calling it a strength now.

As he now plays with older players in the NCAA, there’s always the question of whether that part of his game will adapt, but the early signs show that it will, like this hit on top prospect Alex Newhook shows.

Despite the physical side of his game, he only took six penalties in 16 games, which points to a disciplined approach. Having said that, he’s not afraid to engage physically, and is pretty strong on the forecheck.

He has intriguing stick skills. He was usually asked to play the slot on the power play as a net-front player, and he’s able to be an outlet and get the passes out wide. It’s a role he played at the U18 level with the US Development Team, and he played it this summer at the World Junior summer showcase.

Watching Tuch, he likes to float in the offensive zone, looking for opportunities to pounce on loose pucks and isn’t scared to generate pressure on the puck carrier in the offensive zone.

Weaknesses

Tuch’s skating is not the best, but it doesn’t seem to hold him back in most situations. What may need to improve is his ability to process, and his head-to-hands speed. He seems to have a good idea of where the puck is going to go, creating turnovers on the forecheck, but his puck skills don’t allow him to be as dangerous as he could be.

As engaging as he is physically, sometimes he allows players to pass him while on the forecheck. Some of that may be his agility to react quickly to defenders, but it could also be a lack of technique when defending.

Having said that, his freshman season was a strong start, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to a more normal season after a shortened season a year ago.

Projection

Tuch did everything he could do in his first NCAA season to progress in the right direction. Selected 47th overall, the expectations were high to see what he would be able to do, and seemed to eliminate a lot of the concerns some had about his game.

On top of being third in team scoring as a freshman (he outscored the next first-year player by four points), he did almost all of his work at even strength which bodes well for his offensive outlook. He had one power play assist, and no goals with the advantage. In fact, his 10 even-strength points were tied for the team lead with sophomore Jay O’Brien and his six even-strength goals led the team outright.

He will be looked at to continue and perhaps take more of a leadership role in his second season with the Terriers. He will also be in the mix for the United States World Junior team. He took part in the summer showcase, and had two goals and two assists in five games, including a power play goal.

If all goes right, he can definitely be a top-six power forward at the NHL level, but there’s a lot that still needs to happen for him to get there. I’m not sure there’s enough in his game to be a bottom-of-the-lineup forward if the offence doesn’t play at the next level. I can see him playing a bit of a Joel Armia role, but I’m not sure if he can be relied on as heavily defensively.

Like with a lot of prospects in this range, there’s a lot of projection, and Tuch has all the pieces that make a player intriguing. He has good size, decent skill, and loves to be involved in the play. His game took a nice jump forward at the NCAA level, and if he continues that progress, his rise up the rankings won’t stop here.