Riley Tufte Scouting Report: 2016 NHL Draft #22

Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2015 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2016 Draft Articles Click here.

TopShelfProspectsRiley Tufte was the first overall pick in the 2014 USHL draft. However, he has chosen to stay at home and continue playing high school hockey rather than committing full time to the Fargo Force. Playing for Blaine High, he scored 47 goals and 78 points in just 25 games and was awarded the prestigious Minnesota “Mr. Hockey” award. Along the way he did get in 27 games for the force, putting up 10 goals and 14 points. He has also appeared for the United States in international competition, picking up a silver medal at last seasons World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and appearing at last summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament. He is committed to play for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs next season. He also played at the All-American top prospects game last fall in Buffalo.

Riley Tufte Scouting Report: 2016 NHL Draft #22

Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Apr 10 1998 — Ham Lake, Minnesota
Height 6′ 05″ — Weight 205 lbs [196 cm / 93 kg]

Riley Tufte is an excellent stick handler. He uses his long reach to keep the puck away from defenders, but can also stick handle close to his body to navigate through traffic. Tufte is highly skilled with an excellent wrist shot and quick release. He also has a good snap shot and slap shot. His passing skills can be refined slightly as he has grown accustomed to doing it all himself at times. This probably comes due to the way he has been able to dominate at the USHS level, and should be able to improve playing with better teammates and against better opponents. Tufte has excellent size, coming in at 6’5″ tall. While he’s not a big hitter, he uses his size to win battles along the boards, to protect the puck in the cycle game, and to establish position in front of the net. He can provide an effective screen, and also tip in pucks, as well as pounce on rebounds. Given his size, he could stand to add some muscle to his frame to be even more effective when he begins facing bigger and tougher opposition.

Tufte is an excellent skater for his size. He moves very well for a big man with surprising speed, first step quickness and acceleration. His agility is also something you are more likely to find in a smaller player, and uncommon for a 6’5″ player. Tufte could stand to add some core strength and improve his balance going forward. This would help him to fight through checks and drive the net, as well as continue to improve his work in the cycle game.

Tufte’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress. Again this may be an issue where he has dominated so much at the high school level, that learning to defend has not been something that he has needed to do. Tufte shows determination, but must work on his positioning and reading the play. He needs to learn to use his size in his own end, in physical battles, and in cutting down passing and shooting lanes. Good coaching should go a long way here.

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. Tufte’s style is similar to Nick Bjustad of the Florida Panthers, but this is a style comparison only and not one based on talent.

The following is a compiliation of Riley Tufte’s highlights, taken from youtube.

Check back tomorrow for the #23 prospect on our draft board.

Main Photo: