St. Louis Blues fans had a rough weekend — one of the worst they’ve had for several months. But those who are searching for a reason for optimism have lots to look forward to. One of those things is Tyler Tucker, the defensive prospect the Blues selected in the seventh round with the 200th pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
When Tucker was drafted, as with any late-round pick, there was a long and difficult road ahead between him and the NHL. The way he’s been playing with the Barrie Colts this season, though, it may be an easier journey than many once though.
Tucker Closes Out the Draft
Tucker was a prospect that confused many evaluators ahead of the draft. He showed flashes of strong play, but didn’t have enough consistency to earn a high selection. Scouts loved his grit and his determination, but they didn’t love it enough to take a chance on him too high. Therefore, he was still available when the Blues reached their seventh-round pick, their final selection of the day.
Despite mixed reviews, Blues’ assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting, Bill Armstrong, spoke glowingly about Tucker after the draft. “This kid’s all character, you know,” he said with a wide smile on his face. “He’s old school D-man. He’ll fight… He has a will to make a difference in the game.”
Armstrong believed the Blues had gotten a terrific player, one whose hard work and attitude would compensate for a perceived lack of elite skill. “He’s got some really good attributes,” he continued, “and that’s the kind of kid you wanna draft back at the end of the draft, is somebody that’s not gonna roll over and give up.”
This kid’s gonna give you everything he’s got.
Whatever Tucker’s strengths, though, one thing was fairly widely agreed upon: he was not an offensive threat. Dominic Tiano of OHLwriters.me described his ability during his draft season: “Tucker will never be accused of being an offensive defenseman that will rack up a lot of points.” Tiano’s assessment agreed with that of OHL Central Scouting before him and Armstrong after him. But Tucker is re-writing that story this season.
An Offensive Explosion in Barrie
If he was once exclusively a stay-at-home defenseman, he has apparently left the house this season. Tucker has been impressing everybody, including Sportsnet, who listed him as one of the ten biggest CHL surprises earlier this season. He hasn’t slowed down since that designation, either.
Tucker has collected 51 points in 61 games so far this season, more than doubling his previous career high from last season. He’s collected 12 goals to go along with 39 assists. He’s also tallied seven points in his last three games, including a very impressive four point night against the Ottawa 67’s one day before his 19th birthday.
Happy 19th Birthday to Tyler Tucker! pic.twitter.com/HNN2qNquIq
— Barrie Colts (@OHLBarrieColts) March 1, 2019
Our own Ryan Noble listed Tucker as one of the Colts who was developing nicely for the NHL. He explains that the Blues asked Tucker to work on his offense, and he took the challenge seriously. It shows, as he is now a much more well-rounded defenseman than he was entering the season.
A Future Blue?
It’s never a guarantee that a late seventh round selection will make the NHL — in fact, the odds are stacked against that happening. But, if Tucker’s early returns are any indication, he may just beat the odds and become a player in the Blues’ defense.
St. Louis has an abundance of left-handed defensive prospects right now, and before the season, it seemed like Tucker was towards the bottom of the heap. But with his performance this season, it looks like he’s climbing, and fast. He might be the team’s top southpaw, except for the excellent season Scott Perunovich is having in the NCAA.
Tucker has a lot of work ahead of him. At just 19, he’ll likely spend next season with the Colts as well, and he’ll need to continue to show both sides of his skillset to rise further up the ranks in the organization. But, as a seventh-round pick who has already doubled his offensive production, there’s good reason to believe that the future is bright, both for Tucker and the Blues.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.