Weight: 203 pounds
Date of birth: March 1, 2000
Hometown: Longlac, Ontario
OHL Draft: Round 1, 14th overall, 2016 Priority Selection
NHL Central Scouting pre-season: C Prospect
NHL Central Scouting mid-term: 104 North American Skaters
NHL Central Scouting final rank: 171 North American Skaters (pdf)
When it comes to the 2018 National Hockey League Draft, Barrie Colts’ defenseman Tyler Tucker may just be one of the biggest enigmas there is. Coming into the season he was on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list as a C prospect – typically a fourth, fifth or sixth round pick.
When Central Scouting released its mid-term rankings, Tucker was just outside the top 100 among North American Skaters at 104. When their final rankings were released, we were somewhat surprised to see him ranked 171st. That ranking, if that is where NHL Teams view him, would leave him outside the draft looking in when you consider Europeans and Goaltenders.
So, the questions that come to mind are: did Tucker do enough in the second half to maintain the close to top 100 pick among North Americans? Was his second half worthy of dropping out of the draft? Did 67 players show that much improvement in the second half and thus surpassing Tucker?
We will try and shed some light on the topic. But first, some history.
Tucker played his Minor Midget AAA hockey with the Toronto Titans during the 2015-2016 season where he posted 6 goals and 12 assists in 39 games. There was a lot to like about the big, physical, in your face defenseman. Even OHL Central Scouting had some love for him prior to the OHL Draft:
Tyler is a big, physical stay-at-home defender that loves to look for the big hit. He is a good skater with good mobility and stride, which allows him to take away time and space. Tyler makes a solid outlet pass and keeps his game simple for the most part. Tyler will be a player that coaches love to have on their team because of his high compete level and solid defensive play.
Last season was Tucker’s rookie year in the OHL and he appeared in 62 games for the Colts scoring once and adding 13 assists with 51 penalty minutes. His minus-12 raised some eyebrows, but after all, he was a rookie.
Tucker showed the improvement needed this season. In 59 games, he scored 3 goals and 20 assists while piling up 87 minutes in penalties and a very good plus-27. Among draft eligible players, he finished tied for eighth among defensemen in points, third in plus/minus and first in penalty minutes. He raised his offence in the playoffs to .5 points-per-game on 3 goals and 3 assists in 12 games.
Tucker will never be accused of being an offensive defenseman that will rack up a lot of points. What he is, is a stay-at-home-defender who can take care of business in his own zone against top players. He is a bruising blueliner who relishes the physical part of the game. He is not the world’s fastest skater, but he possesses a powerful stride that allows him to keep his gaps closed or close them sufficiently. He is hard to beat one-on-one and rarely gets overpowered in the physical department.
Tucker will also never be known for making end-to-end rushes or skating the puck out of danger and up ice. What he does do because of his never-ending work ethic is do what ever it takes and outwork his opponent to get the puck back onto his stick and then make a smart heads up pass to clear the zone.
Tucker is very good on the penalty kill. He knows how to use his stick effectively, box out opponents and is a force in front of his own goal. He makes it difficult for opponents to take away his goaltender’s vision. He uses his long reach to take away options.
Skating is an area Tucker can improve on. While he possesses good mobility and that strong stride, adding some speed could be advantageous to him. It could add to his confidence in skating with the puck more and could help him in the offensive zone.
Tucker is not the “new breed” of defensemen that act as a fourth forward, which may be the reason he has dropped on Central Scouting’s list. But where exactly do you select a defensive defenseman of his calibre? That question will be answered in June. Or maybe not.