Photo Credit: Nick Barden

ON’s Top Prospects Countdown – No. 11: Tyler Tullio

No matter how much the NHL changes, there are some things that always remain the same.

One of those things is skepticism around drafting smaller players. Pretty much every single year, there’s a guy who falls in the draft because of his size and, more often than not, that guy ends up making everybody look dumb. Alex DeBrincat was that guy in 2016, Anthony Cirelli was that guy in 2015, Brayden Point was that guy in 2014. The list goes on and on.

If all goes well for the Oilers, Tyler Tullio will be that guy from the 2020 draft. If Carter Savoie being available in the fourth round was surprising, Tullio being there for the Oilers to snag in the fifth round was absolutely mind-boggling.

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For me, Tullio’s fall was the biggest shock of the draft. As with Savoie (who I wrote about on Thursday), the Oilers could have themselves a steal here.

Tyler Tullio

Position: Centre and Wing
Shoots: Right
Nationality: Canada and United States
Date of Birth: April 5, 2002
Drafted: 2020, No. 126 overall (EDM)
Height: 5’10” / 177 cm
Weight: 181 lbs / 82 kg

In his rookie season in the OHL in 2018-19, Tullio put up 15 goals and 42 points in 60 games, which ranked fifth in the league among U-17 players. In 2019-20, he didn’t break out and reach the next level of offensive production, but Tullio still produced above a point-per-game clip, scoring 27 goals and 66 points over 62 games.

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A good, productive rookie season followed by a point-per-game second season in the OHL is the trajectory of a solid, B-level prospect who you’d expect to go in the second round or early third round. And that’s pretty much where Tullio was pegged heading into the draft, ranking between No. 38 and No. 80 on pre-draft scouting lists.

Instead, Tullio slipped all the way to the fifth round, where the Oilers finally picked him at No. 126 overall. Though he was drafted 26 spots behind Savoie, I have Tullio as the higher-ranked prospect between the two because I believe Tullio’s floor is higher. Savoie has a higher upside if all works out, but he’s more of a boom-bust player, whereas Tullio seems to be somebody who can play multiple roles in an NHL lineup.

Tullio is a versatile forward who can play all three positions, centre, right, and left wing. He’s a great skater who plays with an edge and tenacity, serving as the player on a given line who hunts down the puck to gain possession. More of a play-maker than a shooter, Tullio boasts exceptional puck skills, vision, and creativity in the offensive zone.

Really, the only thing Tullio lacks, as I mentioned earlier, is size. He’s only 5’10” and isn’t particularly heavy, so he can get outmuscled by the bigger, stronger players around him. But the fact that he’s an excellent skater should help him compensate for this weakness.

The combination of grit and tenacity that makes him a good puck retriever coupled with excellent vision and playmaking ability gives him the profile of an excellent complimentary player. If Tullio reaches his potential, he would be an ideal linemate next to a star player or as the third wheel on a very strong line.

Tullio himself says that he models his game after Brad Marchand, a key cog on arguably the best forward line in the NHL…

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“I try and model a little bit after Brad Marchand, not the dirty side,” Tullio said. “He’s a small guy like me, he’s offensively gifted, can shoot, make plays, has great hockey vision and uses his body. He’s gritty. He has all the things I have in my game as well.”

Marchand, of course, is another one of those players who ended up going in the third round of the draft because teams were turned away from drafting a small forward.

Let’s hope that Tullio can join the list of names like Marchand, Cirelli, DeBrincat, and Point who made everyone look dumb for passing on them. Of course, for every name like Marchand, there are countless other small guys who go in the third or fourth or fifth round that nobody ever hears about. There’s no guarantee that Tullio will develop into a quality NHL player, but having this level of upside for a fifth-round pick is fantastic.

Tullio and the Oshawa Generals will begin their 2021 season in early-February. Playing alongside 2019 first-round pick Philip Tomasino, Tullio has the opportunity to put together a breakout season offensively. If that happens, we should be looking forward to Tullio playing on Team Canada at next winter’s World Juniors. That would be a great way for him to kick off a prove-them-wrong storyline.

For reference, players who I consider to be “prospects” for this countdown are skaters who have played fewer than 50 NHL games and goaltenders who have played fewer than 25 NHL games. I’m basing the rankings on a combination of upside and the likelihood of reaching that potential. 

No. 15 – Stuart Skinner

No. 14 – Filip Berglund

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No. 13 – Cooper Marody

No. 12 – Carter Savoie


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