Keith Tkachuk made no shortage of enemies over the course of his 19-year NHL career, and is one of just four players to score 50 goals and rack up 200 penalty minutes in the same season. Matthew Tkachuk, though only 20 years old, has drawn the ire of many NHL stars with his uncanny ability to both take and draw penalties. Luckily for one NHL team come this June’s draft, and unluckily for the other 30 teams, there is a third Tkachuk on his way to the league, and his playing style definitely befits his surname.
Raising your draft stock with a good performance at the World Juniors has been a phenomenon for as long as people have paid attention to the tournament, and although Filip Zadina was the biggest beneficiary of the hype during and immediately following the tournament, Brady Tkachuk is a close second, and is now firmly in the top 5 of most mock drafts where he wasn’t already before the World Juniors.
Born in Arizona and raised in St. Louis, the youngest Tkachuk missed being eligible for last year’s draft by a single day, but has been recognized as a top-end talent among players his age for a few years now. His combination of size (6’3”, 197 pounds), meanness, and offensive ability always makes scouts salivate, and USA Hockey was no exception. He made the famed National Team Development Program out of its evaluation camp, as his older brother had, and became one of the bright spots of a 1999-born crop that was widely considered to be a down year for the program.
Tkachuk’s first season with the NTDP was serviceable if unremarkable, but in his second year, he really broke out as a player to watch for this draft. He improved his point total from 25 to 54, and his goal total from 9 to 25. He also was given the captaincy about halfway through the season, despite being the second-youngest regular player on the team, and kept the C all the way through the World Under-18s, where he put up seven points in seven games and the US took home gold for the tenth time in their history. He also excelled at this year’s All-American Prospects Game, which I was in attendance for, scoring the game-winning goal and winning game MVP honors.
Unlike his brother, who played for the OHL’s London Knights, Tkachuk chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and attend Boston University. As to be expected of the second-youngest player in college hockey this season, Tkachuk has had some early struggles adapting to the speed of the higher level, particularly on the offensive end. It took him until December 1st to score his first goal, although as of January 11th he has a very respectable 4-10-14 line for a Terriers team that is struggling to live up to its always-high expectations and struggling to replace the early departures of Clayton Keller, Charlie McAvoy, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. I should mention as well he’s done a very good job of avoiding taking a lot of dumb penalties, something I felt he very much needed to improve on after last season.
But for all the struggles Tkachuk had in college early on, he seemed to completely forget about them once the World Juniors rolled around. Playing the bulk of the tournament on a line with Sabres first-rounder Casey Mittelstadt and Devils prospect Joey Anderson, as well as seeing top power play minutes with Mittelstadt and Islanders first-rounder Kieffer Bellows, Tkachuk was able to utilize his combination of toughness and on-the-puck skill to emerge as one of the brightest spots on the American team. The highlight of Tkachuk’s tournament, in which the US finished third, was his tying goal and shootout winner in the outdoor game against the eventual champion Canadians.
Projecting his future
My personal opinion on Tkachuk is this: he will be a top-5 pick in June and should be a top-6 winger in the NHL for years to come. This could also be his last year in college, as I expect him to compete for a spot in an NHL lineup as soon as next year––obviously, the team that drafts him will have some influence on this decision. Even if he doesn’t make the league next year, he’ll still be eligible for the AHL should he turn pro, and I don’t think he’d be averse to taking the path his brother went on and going to London, who holds his OHL rights.
Expected draft position: Top-5
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