Suffering a fall from grace is never pretty and Vegas Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch endured a year from hell in 2019-20.
Although the 2019-20 NHL regular season is not yet over for the Vegas Golden Knights, Tuch will no doubt be keen to banish this year to the history books as quickly as possible.
After breaking out in explosive fashion in 2018-19 with an incredible career-high 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 74 games, expectations had rocketed for Tuch heading into this year.
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Following the stunning Trade Deadline acquisition of Mark Stone, Tuch was tasked with providing secondary scoring by the bucketload from a third-line role in 2019-20.
However, a wrench was thrown into the works early and Tuch never quite recovered, resulting in a wasted year that had started with so much promise.
What Went Wrong
Fresh off a career-year, Tuch had burst onto the NHL scene and was ready to move into the upper-echelons of the hottest young power forwards in the league.
However, and for the third consecutive year, the wing went down with a lower-body injury late in the preseason and was forced to miss the start of the 2019-20 regular season.
Momentum, as we all know, is a huge factor in sports and Tuch was robbed of that from the get-go which didn’t help his cause going forward.
The 23-year-old eventually returned at the end of October and tallied a goal in his first game back in the overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 31, 2019.
But, just one more point in his next nine outings appeared a little troubling and a lack of secondary scoring from the bottom-six forward unit really played into the Golden Knights’ lack of consistency.
There did appear to be some hope on the horizon after Tuch recorded eight points (four goals, four assists) in six games from Nov. 29, 2019 to Dec. 10, 2019.
That proved to be a false dawn, however, with the power forward failing to register a single point in his next five outings.
It didn’t get much better for Tuch who failed to generate any real momentum before he was dealt a final body blow.
After taking a hard fall into the boards during the 6-5 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 13, Tuch was rated as week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
That latest setback, the third of the regular season, ended Tuch’s year although he could be ready to go if hockey returns and is played through the summer.
But, if the 2019-20 season is cancelled then there is no getting away from how disappointing this year was for Tuch.
In total, Tuch skated in just 42 games this year, putting up eight goals and nine assists for 17 points with a -10 rating and seven points on the power play.
Banged up for the majority of the year, even when he was on the ice, Tuch logged an average of 14:37 minutes of ice time per night and struggled to really settle into a groove on the third-line.
His shooting percentage (8.2) was down on previous years, as was his Point Shares (1.1), and he just never looked comfortable or at the full peak of his powers.
A lethal combination of brute force, sheer size and blistering speed was the key to Tuch’s success in 2018-19, but that perfect mix of ingredients was missing from the forward’s game this year.
He was hesitant when healthy and just seemed to be missing that instinct that served him so well the year before, while he was unable to use his strengths to crash the net and exploit passing lanes.
Plus, Tuch suffered another setback in his return from his third injury of the year, which should spark some concern going forward.
Even if hockey does return this year, the Golden Knights should consider putting Tuch on the shelf until 2020-21.
After all, the human body isn’t to be messed with and the last thing the coaching staff would want to do is risk making a certain problem ten times worse.
Plus, at 23-years-old, the future is still incredibly bright for Tuch and long-term thinking should be king in this situation.
Having already proved what he is capable of, there is no doubt that Tuch boasts all the tools and weapons in his arsenal needed to morph into a high-end power forward in the NHL.
Granted, the slew of injuries are already a concern and the wing has been hurt by not being able to start a season due to injury.
However, blessed with monstrous size and incredible speed, Tuch has the intangibles needed to still be a star for the Golden Knights.
He has what it takes to get back to being a 50-point scorer for Vegas, while playing a key role on both the power play and the penalty kill.
Under contract through 2025-26, Tuch is very much a pivotal part of the future for the Golden Knights and his Annual Average Value of $4,750,000 will be a bargain if he can get back to the highs of 2018-19.
Overall, while Alex Tuch will go down as the biggest disappointment of 2019-20 for the Vegas Golden Knights, there is a pathway for the talented forward to get back to the highs he scaled a year ago.