With the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Calgary Flames selected Matthew Tkachuk. Son of hockey legend Keith Tkachuk, the then-19-year-old showed off a similar style of play to his dad. What he added onto that style of play, was better skating, hockey IQ and puck control, which made him a lethal force in the OHL. Playing one year with the London Knights, Tkachuk totalled 107 points in only 57 games. That averages to just under two points a game. Before his time in London Ontario, Tkachuk played for the U.S. National Under-18 and Under-17 teams. These teams participated in the USHL, as well as international tournaments. In a combined 57 games there, he tallied 50 points. He also had a combined 93 penalty minutes during his time in the USHL, again reflecting his dad’s playing style.
Matthew Tkachuk : The Calgary Flames Next Star
Going into the draft, Tkachuk was ranked second amongst North American skaters. The only player above him was Pierre-Luc Dubois, who was taken third overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Needless to say, it was fairly obvious that Tkachuk was going to end up being one of the best players out of this draft. The one big weakness he had was his skating, which was still fairly decent. His notable strengths going into the draft included his knowledge of the game, skill in both ends of the ice, and his old-school playing style. All three of these were strengths that set him apart from the draft class of goal scorers.
Going to a team like Calgary was a blessing for Tkachuk too. Although he had proven himself at the junior level, it’s not certain that he’d be in the NHL yet had he gone to a different team. But considering Calgary’s lack of forward depth, and their need for a solid power forward. Tkachuk had had a good shot at landing an NHL spot.
For any doubt that remained, Tkachuk earned his spot in training camp. After just the first few days, he had a good number of players giving him praise. Team captain Mark Giordano said, “(Tkachuk) didn’t look out of place, that’s for sure. He just fit in nicely.” Giordano also noted Tkachuk’s level of confidence, saying that’s a trait NHLers need. Troy Brouwer also chimed in on Tkachuk’s success, saying he thinks he was doing well at the start of training camp.
66 Games Later
Tkachuk has solidified his spot amongst the top-six forwards in Calgary. He’s averaging about 14:30 ice time this season. His time on the ice is rising slowly as he becomes more and more productive, and as the team relies on him more and more.
What’s even more impressive, though, is how Tkachuk has benefited the Flames offense. The only other significant changes to the team’s forwards was the loss of Jiri Hudler, and the acquisition of Brouwer to fill his hole. Despite the lack of big offensive changes, the Flames offense has seen a looked a lot better. They’re average goals per game is 2.70, which ranks them at just about middle of the league. In fact, a lot of their offensive stats rank about middle of the league. They’re staying relatively close to the offensive stats they recorded last season, but on the ice the forwards have looked a lot better.
Tkachuk can be credited with at least part of this improvement. He’s brought a lot of versatility, hockey IQ, and raw skill to the team’s top six. He currently has the fifth-most points on the team, tallying 44 so far. He also ranks fifth amongst all rookies in points. 32 of these points have come in assists, which ranks him third on the team in assists and third amongst all rookies. This only further reflects his knowledge of the game, and the chemistry he’s formed with the team. All this is adding together, and leading Tkachuk to what will most likely be his first 50-point season.
What to Expect
Fans of the Flames have a lot more to be excited about with Tkachuk. In his first year, he’s most likely going to reach the 50-point mark. Next season, providing that Tkachuk avoids a sophomore slump, it’s likely he reaches that mark again. Fans can keep expecting that from Tkachuk as he continues to get more playing time. He’s proven to be well worth his selection in the draft, and has already become a top-six forward in the league. He’s a strong power forward, with an impressive hockey sense. His play style has a lot of parallels with that of his dad. This shows through in his physicality and penalty minutes. He is currently leading his team, and all rookies, in penalty minutes.
Being one of the youngest players in the league, Tkachuk has a very promising career ahead of him. He’ll likely stay with the Flames most of his career, and evolve into one of their best forwards. Alongside Johnny Gaudreau, the two have the ability to make the Flames offense a threat in the league. This will be added to as players like Emile Poirier and Sam Bennett continue to develop and become more prominent in the NHL.