DENVER – In a head-scratcher, Wild prospect Alex Tuch, the 2014 first-round draft pick who represented the United States at last year’s world junior championships, wasn’t put on the Americans’ preliminary roster Monday for the upcoming tournament in Helsinki, Finland.
Tuch was one of a couple of glaring omissions, including Quebec Major Junior Hockey League leading scorer and reigning league MVP Conor Garland and University of Michigan winger Kyle Connor.
“There are five players, including Tuch, that are massive oversights in my view,” TSN analyst Craig Button said by phone. “I mean, Conor Garland had eight goals and eight assists in four games last week!”
Tuch is “disappointed obviously,” assistant General Manager Brent Flahr said. Wild Director of Player Development Brad Bombardir spoke to Tuch to let him know “this doesn’t change our opinion of him as a prospect.”
Miami (Ohio) defenseman Louis Belpedio, a Wild 2014 third-round pick who captained the 2014 U.S. national under-18 team to the gold medal at the Under-18 World Championship, was invited by USA Hockey, but to the Wild that was overshadowed by the Tuch exclusion.
The Boston College sophomore has had a slow start to his season (12 points and 30 shots in 15 games) and apparently didn’t play well at a recent game head coach Ron Wilson scouted. Last season, though, he became the first freshman to lead the Eagles in scoring in 42 years.
Tuch, who sprained a knee at the summer development camp, had a so-so tournament for the U.S. last winter and was benched in the final game. Through a spokesman, USA Hockey GM Jim Johannson declined to comment on any roster decisions.
“Alex Tuch was very successful playing under-17, successful playing U-18, is successful in college,” Button said. “He has skill, size, thinking and he has maturity now in his game. It just surprises me.”
Being snubbed from a world junior team is not the end-all, be-all. Some infamous snubs include Tyler Seguin, Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, Mike Green and the Wild’s Matt Dumba.
Besides Belpedio, the Wild had four others invited to their respective country’s camps: 2015 first-round pick Joel Eriksson Ek (Sweden), 2014 fourth-rounder Kaapo Kahkonen (Finland), 2015 fourth-rounder Ales Stezka (Czech Republic’s camp) and 2015 fifth-rounder Kirill Kaprizov (Russia).
Rolston gets the call
Brian Rolston, who hit the 30-goal mark in all three seasons he played for the Wild, joked he “didn’t make the initial cut” for the Feb. 20 alumni game. But Rolston, who now coaches the bantam major Little Caesars team in Detroit, ultimately got the call and is excited to be part of it.
“It’s such an event and you’re just a small part of something so fun and so grand,” Rolston said. “I can’t wait.”
Rolston said his 10-year-old Minnesota-born son, Stone, already has asked for a Wild Stadium Series jersey for Christmas.
• Defenseman Mike Reilly, who has yet to make his NHL debut, was scratched for a third consecutive game Monday at Colorado. Coach Mike Yeo didn’t want to change a lineup that allowed one goal during a three-game winning streak.
• The Wild, which doesn’t typically travel with a team doctor, conspicuously had Dr. Joel Boyd at Monday’s game. In the season opener at Colorado on Oct. 8, the Wild complained that the Avalanche didn’t follow NHL protocol and send a doctor to the locker room in a timely manner to examine Nino Niederreiter.
Boyd, however, said he was in Las Vegas and decided to fly in on his own.