Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP
Sunday, May 27, 2018 | 6:31 p.m.
During the Golden Knights’ preseason in September, rookie Alex Tuch didn’t even have a locker to call his own. He started training camp in a separate locker room entirely — with the rest of the rookies — but eventually worked his way over to the veteran locker room.
Waiting for him there was a fold out chair in the middle of the carpet, with another chair next to it to hang his equipment on.
Eight months later Tuch sat in the T-Mobile Arena lobby for Stanley Cup Final media day, surrounded by microphones and just across the way from the Stanley Cup itself. The 22-year-old forward finished eighth on the team with 37 points (15 goals and 22 assists) and has been one of the best players on the team in the postseason.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “Honestly when I came into this year I was worried about making the team. That was my goal from day one. I wasn’t worried about how many points I’d have or how many games I’d play. I wanted to be on this team full time.”
Tuch was sent to the American Hockey League for a very brief stint early in the season while general manager George McPhee cleared out roster space to bring him back aboard, and he remained on the Golden Knights ever since.
“I think it really gave me an opportunity to come in with a clean slate and kind of prove myself as a full-time NHL player,” Tuch said. “I have to give a lot of credit to the management and coaching staff to get me to where I am today.”
He played major minutes on the power play, and is tied for second on the team with six goals in the playoffs.
“I think my consistency has gotten a lot better,” Tuch said. “I guess the confidence and experience of playing in those games has really shown me how to be a successful NHL player.”
Tuch was given away by the Minnesota Wild in the expansion draft in order to keep other players. He has used that to fuel him.
“Everyone wanted to come in and prove people wrong, and I think (Jonathan Marchessault) said it ‘We love the haters and we want to prove the haters wrong,’” Tuch said.
Vegas has one more series to complete that goal, and it starts tomorrow. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Golden Knights and Washington Capitals begins at 5 p.m. Monday at T-Mobile Arena.
One more night of anticipation before Tuch can finally step on the ice to play in the series he’s dreamt about since he was a child.
“I’m just hoping that I fall asleep, honestly,” he said, laughing.