BLAINE, Minn. - A young hockey player from Blaine had to overcome health issues to become Minnesota's top NHL draft prospect.
"I just had symptoms," Blaine senior forward Riley Tufte said. "I lost like 20 pounds, and my mom just said we were going to go into the doctor. That's when found out I had diabetes."
At just 11 years old, Riley Tufte's life took an unexpected turn after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
"I didn't know what was going to happen to me to be honest," Tufte said. "I didn't know how diabetes worked, and I didn't know if I could play hockey."
Flash forward six years and not only is Riley playing hockey, he's the state's top prospect and a projected first round pick in the 2016 NHL draft. But here's the real kicker, Riley believes his greatest off-ice challenge has actually come to benefit him on the ice.
"I think it helps me out a lot because I know what I'm putting in my body now because I have to be so careful with it," Tufte said.
"There are professionals in the NHL that took so much time to really understand how nutrition impacts how they play," Blaine coach Chris Carroll said.
Standing 6 feet 5 inches, Riley's actually one of the tallest forwards eligible for this year's draft. Not surprisingly, Riley's size is a big reason he's drawn constant comparisons to former Blaine standout Nick Bjugstad, who now stars for the Florida Panthers.
"My brother's actually best friends with him so I stay in touch with him every week or so," Tufte said. "He tells me just to stay humble and relax."
Despite being picked number one overall by the Fargo Force in the USHL draft, Riley returned to Blaine for his senior season in search of one more shot at the state tournament.
"These kids all look up to him in a very special way," Carroll said. And for this UMD commit, that's what it's all about.