FRISCO, Tex. — It’s hard to miss Riley Tufte at the Dallas Stars Development Camp.
At 6’5″ and 205 pounds, the Stars first-round pick in this year’s draft (25th overall) doesn’t have much space to hide on the ice at Dr Pepper StarsCenter. And in his first official on-ice activity with the Stars, all eyes have been on the monstrous teenager from Blaine, Minnesota.
“He’s even bigger in person, isn’t he?” Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell said while watching a practice session Wednesday. “I’m excited about what he’s going to do. It should be fun to see him learn to use that size.”
Tufte’s raw skills are the first thing that caught the Stars’ attention. In addition to his monstrous size Tufte moves well and he has long reach. He also has heavy shot that baffled a couple goaltenders at development camp on Wednesday.
It’s all a solid foundation for Tufte (pronounced TUF-tee) to really blossom into an elite NHL prospect when he attends the University of Minnesota Duluth next season.
For Tufte it was an easy choice to pick college hockey over the major junior route. The added time in the weight room should add muscle to his already large frame, while he said the structure of the college game will help him in his own defensive end.
“I want to go to school, and I think that will be best for my development,” Tufte said. “That college style will be good for me.”
Minnesota Duluth was the first team to offer Tufte when he was at Blaine High School, and that early interest helped him solidify his college choice.
“I knew they were really interested in the start, I love the coaching staff and the faculties are really great,” Tufte said. “Guys are great too, and I always grew up going to out of town hockey tournaments in Duluth.”
Tufte’s transition to the college game will be a telling factor about his NHL future. After he dominated Minnesota high schoolers and grabbed Minnesota Mr. Hockey honors after scoring 78 points in just 25 games at Blaine, he’ll be asked to step into a bigger role in college.
Tufte did struggle a little against USHL competition before and after his high school season. He was on a more even playing field in the USHL, and was asked to play a different role with the Fargo Force than he was asked at the high school level.
It’s one of the few things you can nitpick about Tufte’s last season, but he said his time in high school was well worth it.
“If I’m going to get to the NHL someday it’s not going to be because of those three months,” Tufte said. “I wanted to play one more year of high school. Be with my buddies, try and win a state championship, and be the man at Blaine.”
While he was the big man on campus at Blaine, Tufte said he’s now looking forward to his future in the Stars organization. Throughout his time at Minnesota Duluth he’ll stay in close contact with Stars management, while he’s projected to turn professional after junior or senior season.
“It’ll be fun,” Tufte said. “I’m happy to be here, it’s nice to see what I’m working toward.”