When Buffalo Sabres general manager (GM) Kevyn Adams finally pulled the trigger and traded former captain and franchise player Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 4, 2021, people around the hockey world were immediately skeptical of the return that he got. After waiting months and letting the situation drag out and get ugly, people thought Adams had settled on a deal that didn’t yield the best case scenario return for the Sabres – those people seem to have quieted down a bit since then. Still, not many people saw Alex Tuch, the current roster piece acquired from the Golden Knights, as the main piece of the trade, but rather Peyton Krebs, the young prospect with tons of untapped potential.
While both Krebs and Tuch have made an impact and look like they will be solid contributors for the Sabres for years to come, it’s Tuch who has won over the hearts of Sabres fans already, and Tuch who is on a tear with a ridiculous individual points streak to start his Sabres tenure. Here’s a look at the player that has made an immediate impact on the Sabres organization, and why he’s established himself already in the Buffalo and Western New York community.
Sabres Have A Bonafide Top Line
The Sabres’ top line since they drafted Eichel in the 2015 draft has always featured the former captain, along with a rotating cast of wingers that, over the past few seasons, usually included Jeff Skinner, Sam Reinhart, and others. Now that Eichel is gone, though, every Sabres forward has been given a chance to prove their talent and make a case for top line time. The newly-arrive Tuch is no different, and with the help of two of his teammates, has given the Sabres what appears to be a bonafide first line.
Tuch is a big, bruising power forward with a knack for the net, and at 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds, he has added another dimension to the Sabres forward group that they’ve severely lacked for a number of years. He has had considerable offensive success over his career, and posted a few good seasons with the Golden Knights before making his way to the Sabres. In 274 career games, he has 68 goals, 92 assists, and 160 points, and has already broken the 50-point threshold, back in the 2018-19 season. Since joining the Sabres, however, he seems to have kicked his game into a new gear, and his presence with the team has made the players around him better, too.
The Sabres new first line looks to be comprised of Skinner and Tuch on the wings, and Tage Thompson at center. This Skinner-Thompson-Tuch line has made for some exciting hockey to watch, and all players have been having nice offensive seasons so far. Thompson leads the team in goals (20) and points (38), Skinner is tied for the team lead in goals (20) after a disappointing season in 2020-21, and Tuch is quickly racking up the points, too. This current rebuild is going to be a long, winding road, but this could be the first look at a new top line if they continue to play the way they’ve been playing.
Tuch Riding A Hot Streak
Tuch had an off-season surgery to repair an injury he had last season, so Sabres fans had to wait a couple of months before seeing him take the ice in a Sabres sweater. When he finally did, though, they were treated to a hard-working player who does all the “little things” right. That’s translated into quite the hot streak to start his early Sabres career.
This season, Tuch has played 19 games, scoring seven goals, 14 assists, and 21 points. He is more than a point-per-game player at the time of writing, and is one of the only “plus” players on the Sabres, with a plus-minus rating of plus-five. He has earned special teams playing time and has added three points on the power play, and is shooting at an impressive, and somewhat sustainable 11.1 shooting percentage (S%).
In his last seven games, Tuch has three goals and nine points; in his last 14 games, he has six goals and 17 points. Over that most recent 14 game span, Tuch, Skinner, and Thompson have been the top three scorers for the Sabres. Tuch’s previous career highs of 20 goals, 32 assists, and 52 points look to be in jeopardy at some point, if not this season. The wild part about it all is that he could potentially surpass those marks as soon as this season, if he keeps up the rampant scoring pace he’s on. While some of these trajectories aren’t sustainable, there are some that are, especially with such great chemistry developing with his line mates.
Tuch Winning Over the City of Buffalo
It’s not just on the ice where Tuch has made an impact since joining the Sabres. He’s also made an impact off the ice, too, getting involved in charitable causes around the City of Buffalo and making an effort to ingrain himself in the organization beyond his teammates.
Before Tuch even laced up the skates for his first practice with the Sabres, he arrived in Buffalo and asked Adams if he could visit the team offices and get to know the team staff. “He went around to the entire staff and just introduced himself and learned what people do,” Adams said of Tuch’s arrival in Buffalo. “I got to tell you, it’s such a big deal when someone that works in the operations or finance department understands that Alex Tuch knows who they are, appreciates the job they do every day.
“It’s how you can build a really powerful organization in terms of the culture and what people mean to each other. I give Alex a lot of credit. That’s just the type of person we’re talking about here.” (From ‘’He just loves to help’ | How Tuch made an impact while awaiting debut’ NHL.com, 12/29/2021)
When asked what his reasoning for wanting to meet some of the Sabres staff was, Tuch said “It’s not just our team, it’s not just the players in the locker room . . . “It’s players, coaching staff, management, all of our support staff here at the rink, especially all the fans.
“The entire City of Buffalo, you want to get as many people a part of our team as possible. I know that once we continue to build and progress this team is going to be selling out barns, playing in the playoffs down the road. We have high expectations for this group going forward. I think myself included, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do as much as possible.” The City of Buffalo has definitely reciprocated Tuch’s attitude to him, and he’s quickly becoming a fan favorite not one season into his tenure here.
Sabres’ Future With Tuch Looks Bright
Whether or not Tuch pans out to be a future captain of the Sabres, the team is lucky to have him for as long as they are already guaranteed, and if he wants to stick around past that, they’re even luckier. Tuch is in the third year of a seven-year contract, and is signed for four more full seasons after this one, with a modified no-trade clause (M-NTC) in the last three seasons of that contract. Carrying a cap hit of $4.75 million average annual value (AAV), the Sabres have a bargain in Tuch, and if he can continue to produce at even close to the clip he’s scoring at right now, he should be considered one of the best contracts in the entire NHL.
Sabres fans have caught just a glimpse of what Tuch can bring to the table, and I’m excited to see what his tenure in the blue and gold will hold. Hopefully he is able to be part of a core of young players that can bring this team back into relevancy and into the playoffs conversation once again – I’m sure he is going to give it his all each and every night to try and make sure the Sabres get there while he’s here.
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Brandon is a Buffalo Sabres Contributor for THW and Co-Host of THW’s ‘Sabres Scoop,’ who received his Master of Science in Sport Administration from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, and founded his website, Seltytending, in 2017. He is an avid hockey writer and podcaster with prior work experience in the OJHL, NWHL, and NCAA. Twitter: @BSalts15