Matthew Tkachuk: Calder winner? Probably not, but

Disclaimer: Matthew Tkachuk’s chances of winning the Calder are probably about as likely as your chances of finding a picture of him with his mouthguard actually in his mouth. In other words, not likely.

He’ll get some consideration, I’m sure. Maybe a particularly strong back half could see him end up a finalist, but aiming to be top five in voting may be more realistic.

Whether or not Tkachuk does get a trophy at the end of the year, though, keep in mind that approaching the 40-game mark of the season – the very one that will determine Tkachuk hitting unrestricted free agent status a year earlier – he is, without a doubt, one of the best rookies in the NHL this season.

I’m going to go so far as to say you could make a case he’s actually the best one.

The basics

With 20 points in 33 games, Tkachuk is currently sixth in the rookie scoring race. A couple of the players above him have played more games than he has; most are at about the same.

We can probably assume Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine have two of the nomination spots locked up, both by virtue of being the top two picks of the draft, and by virtue of likely finishing as the top two rookie scorers (barring any collarbone-like incidents occurring). The other three players above Tkachuk – Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Zach Werenski – all have shots, too.

Though with three Leafs possibly in contention, you have to wonder if that helps split the vote at least a little. Tkachuk definitely has the last name recognition, but Columbus’ surge up the standings this year will no doubt help Werenski.

All in all, though, when looking strictly at points, Tkachuk is definitely in the conversation. And then you go just a little deeper and, well…

Player Total Points ES Points Shots/Game SH% ATOI
Patrik Laine 30 21 2.68 19.2 18:22
Auston Matthews 28 19 3.76 13.3 17:47
Mitch Marner 26 20 2.76 8.5 17:07
William Nylander 23 10 2.58 9.4 16:13
Zach Werenski 22 10 2.58 7.0 21:30
Matthew Tkachuk 20 16 1.82 11.7 14:18

Tkachuk isn’t just sixth in points; he’s fourth when it comes to points at even strength. Nylander and Werenski’s numbers are particularly inflated by the powerplay.

Laine may or may not have an unsustainable shooting percentage; maybe he’s just a really accurate shooter, or maybe he’s getting really lucky in his rookie year. It’ll take years for us to find out the answer to that – same as it took a couple with Sean Monahan – but it may be feasible to expect his scoring to go down. Meanwhile, we don’t have that problem with Tkachuk; he’s on pace for 47 points this season, and with a reasonable shooting percentage – via QuantHockey, the average shooting percentage for forwards this season is 10.62% – there isn’t really much reason to expect that to go down.

Really, there’s only one area to strike against Tkachuk here: his ice time is notably lower than the other rookies’. Werenski is in a different situation all together; when it comes to the forward group, though, the Flames are maybe just a little deeper than the Leafs and Jets that they haven’t had to gift Tkachuk with top minutes immediately.

There hasn’t even really been a notable increase in his usage as the season has gone on, though perhaps there should be.

The fancy stuff

I’ll just get this out of the way: according to both Corsica and NaturalStatTrick, Matthew Tkachuk has the best CF%rel in the entire NHL.

Not just out of rookies. Out of everybody.

Okay, with a caveat: out of everybody with over 11 games played, but that isn’t even that big a cutoff point to ask for here.

With a 5v5 CF%rel of +9.99 (Corsica) or +9.96 (NST), Tkachuk has the biggest positive impact on his team out of every single regular in the NHL when he’s on the ice compared to off of it. He turned 19 like two and a half weeks ago. Following up behind him are notably good players like Blake Wheeler and Artemi Panarin. Brad Marchand and Derick Brassard follow, too, and then noted Corsi God Patrice Bergeron.

You have to go all the way down to Sebastian Aho’s +4.33 (Corsica) or +4.46 (NST) to find the next rookie with regular playing time. (Aho is, for the record, seventh in rookie scoring.) Although Kevin Fiala’s numbers may like a word, too, but point is, nobody else in Tkachuk’s rookie class comes even close to touching him when it comes to making a positive impact for his team.

And remember: Tkachuk is doing this with 21.82% offensive zone starts. He’s being put in the worst position out of all of his fellow rookies and he’s absolutely destroying it. For comparison’s sake, Matthews gets 37.56% offensive zone starts, while Laine gets 35.12%. They’re sheltered. Tkachuk isn’t.

He’s doing awfully well in game score, too, averaging .738 a game. That’s tied with Laine, and behind only Matthews (.951) and Werenski (.769).

All in all

I’m sure having such quality two-way linemates as he does is helping out, and maybe the reduced ice time is, too. But considering just how well Tkachuk is doing right now – having stepped right out of junior, only 33 games into his NHL career – both in traditional and fancy stats, maybe the Flames shouldn’t be afraid to start giving him more responsibilities.

He’s probably going to be one of the top players on this team for a long time. He scores, he drives play north, he thrives in difficult circumstances. He’s a total ass to play against, too, and when he takes fewer stupid penalties of his own while continuing to goad the opposition into taking stupid ones against him, well.

There was thought to be some reason for concern considering Tkachuk’s minors history, having always played alongside top players. I’ll cop to this, it was definitely something I was worried about. Was his success a product of him, or was it in part due to his linemates? And it was a good question to ask, if one we couldn’t really determine the answer to.

But at this stage, I think we can feel comfortable that those concerns were unfounded.

Playing alongside fellow top players no doubt helped, but the main reason for Matthew Tkachuk’s success is Matthew Tkachuk.

So here’s to a strong second half for a kid who is definitely one of the best rookies in the NHL this season.

  • Prototype369

    The Calder is kinda out of question, simply because of how unreal both Matthews and Laine are. But Tkachuk will go down as the third best pick of this draft, and by god is it beautiful watching him play

  • Juan Valdez

    Tkachuk isn’t that far behind considering Matthews scored 4 goals in his first NHL game. That being said, the Toronto media usually decides who wins the trophies.

    • jakethesnail

      Agreed…the Eastern biased media won’t stay up late to watch Pacific Division teams play. They just look at goals/points and mark their ballots giving preference to Eastern based players.

      Tkachuk has played well for a 6th pick in the draft, considering numbers 3 to 5 are not even in consideration for the Calder!

  • freethe flames

    Here is the question I have. How has Tkachuk’s numbers changed since he was moved from Bennett/Brouwer(remember how great that line looked in preseason) to Backs/Frolik?

  • The GREAT WW

    Chuk will finish third in Calder voting this year…..just like McDavid did last year…..there is no shame in that. Really impressive actually for a 6th overall pick in his first year after being drafted, especially with generational players like Matthews and Laine in the same draft year…..


  • 24% body fat

    3rd best player in the draft after 35 games, lol.

    Ekblad, Draisaitl, Reinhart, Ehlers, Larkin, Nylander, Pastrnak and Fabbri all producing better than Bennett after more consistant and larger sample sizes. Guess he is hopefully going to turn out to be 9th best from that draft.

      • 24% body fat

        no my point is, that flames fans though Bennet was the best player in the draft as well after 5 games in a playoff series.

        And they keep saying wait, wait, wait with Bennett. And yes he still is young, but flamesnation is declaring Tkachuk the 3rd best player from the draft after 35 games.

        I guess Skinner was also the best pick from the 2010 draft.

        The fans quote patients when their player isnt at the top of his draft class, but when the other one is performing well in a small sample size, than who cares about sample size.

        And trash the other comment all you want. With the exception of an ELite Defenseman in Ekblad all the other players I listed are showing more promising offensive skills than bennett. Truth Hurts, and offensive numbers dont lie. Got to hockey DB if you dont believe me.

        So take your pick, what is it. Small sample sizes or larger ones?

        • supra steve

          You’re right about short-sighted fans proclaiming anything about the best picks in a draft…before said draft year is even over. It’s ridiculous to jump to any conclusion at this point in time on the topic of who won the draft or who are the better players. That goes equally for the 2014 draft, it’s still too early to be sure. Flame fans are still waiting to see what will become of their 2012 first rounder (Jankowski).

          However, Ari’s post is about the possibility that Tkachuk could be in the hunt for the Calder…and that discussion is completely appropriate mid-season. Being nominated, or winning the Calder, won’t make any player the best from his draft class…only time and continued effort can do that.

          Having said all that, that Tkachuk is a beaut, isn’t he?

          • FlamesFanOtherCity

            Totally agree on the synopsis.

            It’s also hard to compare Poolparty and Tkachuk at this point. I haven’t seen NHL ability yet from Pooly, even playing with McDavid, but that’s as much from expecting a kid that really only lit it up against his peers in international play.

            Both with probably become good NHL players. Right now, there is no comparison between the two. One looks like he belongs in the league, while the other is having a Draisaitl rookie season.

          • 24% body fat

            and I wasnt making fun of Ari’s artle, Ig uess I should have replied to the relevant comment.

            However bias aside the calder trophy voting should look like this right now. (without flames or leafs biases)







          • piscera.infada

            I’d probably swap Laine and Matthews–one is pretty much carrying a bad team, whereas the other plays on a very, very good team. I agree with Werenski though. That kid’s a stud.

            I think the point of this exercise is to point out that Tkachuk’s underlying numbers are ridiculous for a first-year player–they blow his contemporaries out of the water. That alone, isn’t enough to get him the Calder (nor should it be), but it does prove when coupled with his counting stats that he’s excelling as a rookie.

  • Foximus

    As a Canucks fan I must admit I’m really impressed with Tkachuk for the Flames. I can only hope that Juolevi develops into a dominant #1 dman.

    As a Canadian, I’m pumped for the Flames. They have a pretty solid young core. If Treliving keeps working the miracles he’s been doing so far your team has a very bright future.

    I think the Flames are only going to continue to get better! Good times for flames fans.

  • Eggs Bennett

    Are those %OZS for Matthews and Laine accurate? If so, they’re not sheltered at all… sure Tkachuk is really being put in sink or swim mode but 35% OZS is pretty unsheltered for rookies.