Updated: Feb 18, 2022
CC: The Hockey Writers
BUFFALO, N.Y - Over the course of the 2021-2022 NHL season, the Buffalo Sabres have been left with alternate captains after trading star center Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights. However, fans might not have to wait long for the organization to name a favorite for the team's next single leader.
The team had an emergence from centers Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens with the former currently leading the team in points with 34. However, the stretch from recent trade acquisition, right-winger Alex Tuch, may have given fans their favorite on who will wear the "C" patch on his jersey next season.
Tuch was drafted by the Minnesota Wild with the 18th overall pick in 2014. He spent two seasons playing for its AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild. He made his Wild debut on Feb. 4, 2017 and appeared in six games throughout the season. In the 2017 offseason, the Wild traded Tuch to the Vegas Golden Knights along with established center Erik Haula.
During his time with the Golden Knights, Tuch made the Stanley Cup Finals but fell to the Washington Capitals in five games. However, Tuch landed a seven-year, $33.25 million extension with the Golden Knights.
Tuch had already established himself as an efficient player for the Golden Knights and as a good example for the other players.
The Sabres acquired Tuch along with center Peyton Krebs, a 2022 first round draft pick and a 2023 second round pick for Eichel. Tuch spent time recovering from shoulder surgery he had in July 2021, before making his team debut along with Krebs against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 29.
Despite suffering a 4-3 loss, Tuch mangaed to get his first point as a Sabre on an assist to Thompson. He then got his first team goal on New Year's Day in a 4-3 overtime loss against the Boston Bruins.
In his first 17 games wearing the royal blue and gold, Tuch managed to get a total of 19 points, six goals and nine assists.
Tuch has been an instant impact player for the Sabres since his return from surgery. He got open in the spots he needed to be in, fought for the puck against opposing players, made a lot of shots and provided good opportunities for centres like Thompson, Cozens and Krebs to get goals this season.
“To watch and play with guys like (Rasmus Dahlin) and (Peyton Krebs) and (Dylan Cozens) and see them develop and become the superstars that I think they are destined to become is an exciting time,” Tuch said.
The Sabres established a new foundation with the hiring of head coach Don Granato, the emergence of Thompson and Cozens, the resurgence of left-winger Jeff Skinner, the addition of Tuch, Krebs and centre Jack Quinn and the consistent goaltending from Uka Pekka Luukkonen. However, they still need more key impact players to move forward and hopefully make the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-2012 season.
Naming Tuch the next team captain could be a great offseason decision because the team is currently dependent on their young core of stars, so they require the right guidance. Tuch established a positive connection with his teammates and stated his excitement to play for the Sabres since he's a Syracuse native.
Even if the Sabres don't name a team captain for the 2022-23 NHL season, that shouldn't keep the organization from considering Tuch as a top candidate to wear the coveted "C" patch on his jersey.