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Blaine Hockey Ace Tufte Has The NHL In His Sights

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- He does not look like a hockey player, but he sure plays like one.

Riley Tufte has a chance to lead his Blaine High School team to a state title, and he has a chance to play hockey after high school -- for a long time.

You wonder when you watch him walk if he is going to the right locker room. Tufte is 6 feet 5 inches tall; a frame it would seem made for basketball and not hockey.

"My family really wasn't a basketball family, so I mean I just played football and baseball when I was younger, and those are the sports that I stuck with," Tufte said.

The first thing you notice on the ice is a young man who uses that size to establish himself as the elite.

"Aside from just his on-ice gifts, what he brings to our room, to our guys even off the ice is, believe it or not, probably more special than what he brings on the ice," Coach Chris Carroll said. "And what he brings every night is an NHL talent."

His size and game can easily remind you of a Blaine star now in the NHL, who is also Tufte's role model. Nick Bjugstad was a first-round pick who went on to the Gophers and a multi-million dollar contract in

"Him and my brother played together," Tufte said. "My brother graduated in … 2009-2010, and they were like best friends, they play on the same line. And it was just always fun watching those guys play together."

That is what Tufte wants to be: a big body who can play the entire sheet, every night.

"I try to play a 200-foot game. I mean, I like to call myself a power forward, but I have a lot of skill, too, and I can see the ice well, and I have a good shot also," Tufte said.

What is just is impressive is that he could have left his senior year for the USHL, but playing with his buddies for his hometown team meant even more.

"I've always played for Blaine, I always had 'Blaine' on my sweater growing up, and I didn't want to leave my senior year and not have 'Blaine' on my sweater," he said.

And he wears that sweater, making his high school proud, for he is one of those rare talents to come through a program in many ways.

"Just by being who he is, the leader that he is, and just the charisma that he has is incredible," Carroll said. "And to be honest with you, those are the things that will make him an unbelievable employee, a great dad, a great husband and it's why it's awesome to come to the rink."

Tufte has committed to play at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and he could be a first-round pick in the NHL draft.

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