DULUTH -- After three dream seasons of college hockey in the place some folks call “D-Town,” UMD Bulldogs forward Riley Tufte is taking his talents to the place the locals call “Big D.”
One day after he and his UMD teammates celebrated a second consecutive NCAA hockey crown with an on-campus ceremony, Tufte inked a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars, who had picked him in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, 25th overall.
“I’m really happy for him. He’s matured a lot and talking to him today, I know he’s ready for it,” said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin, after Tufte won NCAA titles as a junior and a sophomore and was a NCAA runner-up as a freshman. “We joked that he’s had a pretty good three years here.”
Tufte, who stands 6-6 and is around 230 pounds, turned 21 while the Bulldogs were in Buffalo, N.Y., for their most recent Frozen Four. He was named Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey in 2016 as a senior at Blaine High School, and became the second winner of that award to play for UMD. Statistically he had his best season as a Bulldog sophomore, with 16 goals and 29 points in 42 games. In his final season at UMD Tufte had nine goals and 19 points in 42 games.
“He came here as still a young kid, and I still think he is, but I think he’s matured every year and I think his game has developed,” Sandelin said. “I know people look at goals and points and all that stuff but there are other things to his game that he’s gotten better at. And those are the things as a coach you look at...The opportunity ahead of him is good.”
Tufte is one of only four Bulldogs picked in the first round of the NHL draft, joining Larry Wright (8th overall in 1971), Matt Niskanen (28th, 2005) and Dylan Olsen (28th, 2009).