Sabres’ Tuch Will Benefit From Playing in World Championships

There are usually some mixed feelings when an NHL player decides to participate in an international event. Such is the case for Alex Tuch of the Buffalo Sabres, who has decided to play in the IIHF World Hockey Championship being co-hosted by Tampere, Finland, and Riga, Latvia and beginning this week. But, in Tuch’s case, there is too much upside for him not to participate in the event.

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When USA Hockey revealed its roster for this tournament in April, it was shared that Tuch’s primary focus for joining Team USA was to play with his younger brother Luke Tuch for the first time. Luke led the Boston University Terriers to a Frozen Four appearance last March and was a second-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2020. No matter the reason, the Sabres and Alex Tuch will reap the benefits of playing in this international tournament (from ‘Sabres notebook: Alex Tuch and brother, Luke, to play together at world championships,’ Buffalo News, May 5, 2023).

Increasing Leadership Skills

As a player who was just nominated for the NHL’s King Clancy Award, Tuch might not need to improve his leadership skills. But even the smallest improvement of skill on or off the ice could be a factor in the Sabres reaching the playoffs in 2023-24. He has been nothing short of outstanding since joining the Sabres, as he ranks third on the team in goals and assists since the team acquired him from Vegas in the trade that sent Jack Eichel to the Golden Knights.

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Alex Tuch (Photo: Tom Sorensen)

The tournament should help Tuch to hone his leadership skills with a new set of teammates. Team USA has very little NHL experience, as nine players spent last season primarily in the NCAA or American Hockey League (AHL). The 27-year-old leads the team in NHL production, with 36 goals and 79 points in 74 games. The other two players with NHL experience are the Vancouver Canucks’ Conor Garland, with 46 points in 81 games, and Nick Bonino, who has played in more than 900 NHL games over his 14-year career. Bonino was named the captain of Team USA, while Tuch and Garland were named alternates.

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The trio will lead a group of talented NCAA prospects, including 2022 fifth-overall pick Cutter Gauthier, Sean Farrell, Matt Coronato, and Carter Mazur. The list also includes Lane Huston, a teammate of Luke Tuch’s at Boston University.

Tuch to be “Part of the Solution”

When the Baldwinsville, N.Y. native was traded to the Sabres from the Vegas Golden Knights in 2021, general manager Kevyn Adams described Tuch as “a very productive player. Has a high character, a leader. All the intangibles. Wants to be a part of the solution.” In addition to his leadership, the Sabres will continue to count on Tuch to produce on the ice. His 79 points in 74 games last season marked his career best, and the Sabres hope that another season of their core playing together will push that number even higher in 2023-24.

Alex Tuch Buffalo Sabres
Alex Tuch, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Coming into last season, Tuch sent a message to the team that the Sabres’ leadership group expected growth, passion, and authenticity from everyone. He may have been sending a similar message to Team USA when he traded punches with Germany’s Tobias Fohrler during an exhibition game on Tuesday after the defenseman chased him down when the two were fighting for a puck in the corner.

Related: Sabres’ 2022-23 Review: Looking Back to See What’s Ahead

Preliminary round action begins on Friday, May 12 and concludes on May 28. Team USA’s games can be seen on the NHL Network. We’ll soon see what Tuch will gain from this experience that will help the Sabres become a playoff team next season.