2015-16 Team: Fargo Force (#26)
Date of birth: April 10th, 1998
Place of birth: Ham Lake, Minnesota
Ht: 6’5″ Wt: 205 lbs
Position: Left Wing
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 1st year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking (February): 24
- Craig Button (TSN): 25
Just the latest top prospect to be produced from the so-called “State of Hockey,” Ham Lake, Minnesota native Riley Tufte is expected to become a first-round NHL draft pick this summer. Tufte began this season with the USHL’s Fargo Force, but ultimately returned for his senior year of high school after struggling in a brief stint with the Fargo Force. After tallying over three points per game and dominating the Minnesota high school tournament, Tufte re-joined the Force and solidified his draft stock as a first-rounder with a much improved performance against elevated competition.
Tufte’s imposing size is the first thing scouts notice, as the forward casts quite the shadow at 6 feet 5 inches and weighing in around 200 pounds. However, it’s not just his size that has NHL teams dreaming on his potential — Tufte potted an astounding 47 goals in just 25 games in his high school season, and added 10 more in his 27-game USHL stint. Tufte’s size, skating ability and lethal shot are all weapons that could turn Tufte into a consistent 25-plus goal scorer in the NHL. For such a tall young player, Tufte exhibits strong all-around skating ability and balance, albeit with room for improvement when it comes to top-end speed. His long reach is also quite the asset when protecting the puck in cycle situations and when driving to the net, and he uses his size effectively along the boards to muscle smaller opponents off the puck.
Tufte, despite his physical gifts, is one of the more risky prospects expected to go in the first round. His goal totals, while impressive, were run up against inferior competition in Minnesota high school hockey and some worry his elite scoring prowess won’t translate to higher levels of hockey. His defensive game is also a work in progress, as he makes an effort to get in the play but lacks defensive instincts and fails to utilize his long reach to break up scoring chances against. However, he is still one of the biggest boom-bust prospects available and given the right team fit, Tufte could develop into an all-around NHL star.
Tufte is an imposing power forward whose goal-scoring acumen and flashy puck skills have landed him firmly in the conversation to be a first round pick. He carries a fair bit of risk, however, and it could be 3-4 years before Tufte comes close to cracking an NHL lineup. His game isn’t one-dimensional, but needs to work on a few things before he can become an impact player against men, both in the NCAA with Minnesota-Duluth next season and for the NHL team that takes a chance on the big forward this June.
NHL Draft Projection:
Tufte’s dominance in high school and high ceiling make him a near-lock to be a first round selection, but it remains to be seen how high a team is willing to take a risk on the big-bodied forward. He should become a mid-to-late first round selection in June.
Tufte has a number of things to work on before he is NHL ready, but if he can add some weight, and overcome the issues with his defensive game and improve his playmaking ability he can become a valuable weapon in a team’s top six. His size, skating, and skill with the puck are an intriguing combination for any team. Playing at Minnesota-Duluth will certainly give him some time to add that muscle to his frame.
Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports
Tufte (somewhat) controversially went back for one more year with his Blaine high school team this year, but it turned out to be a master stroke. Starting the year in Fargo, he struggled. But the 6-foot-5 University of Minnesota-Duluth commit went off at Blaine for three points a game and now back in the USHL, he looks like a brand new player – the best raw prospect one scout had seen from the state of Minnesota in decades.
Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News
- Heavy shot
- Size and reach
- Protects puck well
- Skating ability
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Top-end skating speed
- Playmaking vision
- Defensive game
- Added muscle/strength
Tufte’s rare combination of size and skill at forward is unmatched by most in the draft class, and his ceiling likely tops out at a big, physical top-six forward. However, he’s still very raw and could use several years before he sees significant time in the NHL.
NHL Player(s) Comparison – Nick Bjugstad
Risk = 1.5/5 Reward = 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive = 8/10 Defensive = 5/10
- 2014-2015 U17 World Hockey Championship Silver Medal
- 2015-2016 Mr. Hockey Minnesota
Tufte (#27) leads Blaine HS to a comeback win
Shots From the Slot (Interesting Notes):
Tufte’s dominant season with Blaine HS earned him Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey award, given annually to the top high school player in Minnesota. Tufte follows former Mr. Hockey winners that have established themselves as NHLers, including Nick Bjugstad and Nick Leddy.
THW’s The Next Ones prospect profile template design architect: Chris Ralph
Joseph Aleong is an At-Large writer for THW from Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Follow him on Twitter @josephaleong11