Flames First Round Targets 2016: Matthew Tkachuk

Matthew Tkachuk, son of NHL legend Keith Tkachuk who played with the Jets, Coyotes, Blues and Thrashers, is most certainly going to a western Canadian team in the 2016 NHL draft. Nearly every draft ranking and mock draft thus far has him going between fourth and sixth. There’s a good chance the Flames end up with him, especially if the Oilers and/or Canucks decide a defenseman is their need with their first pick.

The 6’1” 195 pound LW is a December baby and, while he’s not the oldest player in the draft (this honor belongs to Auston Matthews), he’s definitely one of the older players available. Most highly-touted prospects every year tend to be older than their peers.

In 2014-15, Tkachuk played with the US National Development team as part of the USHL program. There, he amassed 129 points over the course of 89 games, giving him a combined NHLE of 32 (based on a translation of 0.27). Those are very good numbers for a 17-year-old season. 

For his draft year, Tkachuk moved over to the OHL to play with the London Knights. He and fellow stud linemates Mitch Marner (2015 fourth overall pick by Toronto) and Christian Dvorak (2014 58th overall pick by Arizona) formed the deadliest line in the entire CHL. Tkachuk put up 30 goals and 107 points in 57 games with the Knights. He also scored 40 points in 18 playoff games en route to London’s OHL Championship. It was an incredibly impressive season with totals that would generally lead a team in scoring – but not this year, as both Marner and Dvorak outpaced Tkachuk. 

In fact, this is not the first time that Tkachuk has been overshadowed by incredible linemates, therefore making it difficult to gauge how much of the bus he’s driving. In his 17-year-old USHL season he played significant time with Auston Mattews, a possible generational prospect that put up record breaking numbers that year.

So what’s the deal with Tkachuk? How good is he and what can we expect?

SCOUTING REPORTS

“Strong on the puck, good playmaker who gets to the net and finishes. Tenacious, good in traffic and sticks up for himself and teammates… just like his dad.– Todd Warriner

“Tkachuk is a highly skilled winger with two-way capabilities. A player who combines a strong work ethic with tremendous hockey sense to be effective in all three zones, Tkachuk excels both as a playmaker and goal scorer. Tkachuk boasts an excellent shot that combines a quick and deceptive release with strong accuracy and impressive velocity. Tkachuk also protects the puck effectively, shows above average puck control and makes good decisions in possession. Tenacious on the forecheck, Tkachuk shows a willingness to engage physically and will use his size to his advantage excelling on net drives off the rush, while also showing no hesitance to play in and through traffic.– Mike Mackley

“His skill in possession, relentless puck pursuit and impressively quick (and smart) hockey mind allows him to process plays quicker than his peers and dominate possession time.” – Anthony Mauro

“He really knows where to go and it’s rare to find a player that age with that type of ability. He plays a lot like his father, Keith… has a lot of the characteristics that James Van Riemsdyk possessed in his draft year.” – Mke Morreale

“No doubting his offensive skills but slides down my list because of benefits by playing with Dvorak and Marner.” – Manny Paiva

“As good as Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak are, Matthew Tkachuk might be this year’s Knight ‘MVP’. He has added another dimension to an already gifted team, and they’ve been unstoppable offensively as a result. Love the way he plays with both power and finesse. Tkachuk’s relentless on loose pucks and excellent at lifting them off defenders to create turnovers. He’s going to excel in the NHL sooner rather than later because of his maturity.” – Scott Wheeler

Sources: OHLprospects.blogspot.com (1); OHLprospects.blogspot.com (2)

We can see that the scouting reports are all over. Most agree that Tkachuk has a great compete level, he has finesse and sandpaper, and he can shoot and make plays, but it’s a mixed bag between him being propped up by his linemates and him being his own driver and creating substantial opportunities for himself and the line.

THE NUMBERS

Goals: 30 (23rd in the OHL)

Assists: 77 (2nd in the OHL)

Points: 107 (5th in the OHL)

ES Points: 59%

PP Points: 41%

% In on Total London Goals: 34%

40+ NHLE

40+ NHL PPG

Here’s a breakdown of every player in the past 12 years to have a true draft year NHLE of 40 or more, and their corresponding career NHL PPG rate (the blanks in the second chart are players that have yet to play in the NHL). Tkachuk’s 46 NHLE is located right in the middle of this very elite group of players, right there with Taylor Hall, John Tavares, Dylan Strome and Bryan Little. If we look at the career PPG of this group of players it’s exceptional (0.78), which is double the PPG rate of NHLers with 100 games under their belt drafted from 2004 to 2014 (0.38). 

Another thing you’ll notice is there are no busts (players that didn’t or won’t soon make the 200 game mark). Not one. All of the players in this cohort have made the NHL and scored at least at an average rate (0.4+ PPG). 

I know the concern: Sam Gagner’s on this list. Remember he and Patrick Kane played together in London and Gagner’s stats benefited tremendously from Kane. It’s the elephant in the room – his linemates are incredible and are propping him up. That’s the obvious concern. Let’s discuss that next.  

Tkachuk3

Tkachuk 7

Here’s a breakdown of relevant stats (via prospect-stats.com) to compare Tkachuk vs. Marner and Dvorak, as well as all other OHLers that registered at least one primary point per game (Konecny, Strome, MacInnis, Bracco, Mangiapane, Crouse, Dal Colle, Garlent, Zacha, Lemieux, Amaldo, Watson, DeBrincat, Fischer and Labanc). What stands out?

The line as a whole pretty much demolished the others at every level. It was a very, very good line. The others in this group did beat out Tkachuk in some instances but the majority of the players in this group are in their D+1 or D+2 years. Even Marner and Dvorak fall in this category. 

Let’s look specifically at Tkachuk vs. Marner and Dvorak. Let’s assume that Marner is obviously driving a big part of the bus here. Nobody has disputed this and Marner certainly sounds like the linchpin of the entire line. 

With that in mind let’s compare Tkachuk and Dvorak. While Tkachuk was not far behind his linemates in overall points per game, he was significantly behind both in primary points and his secondary assists were astronomically high – higher than his linemates and over two standard deviations higher than the rest of the average of the group. That’s not great news. But look at his shooting percentage compared to Dvorak’s – 16% vs. 27%. You could argue that given the playmaking ability of Marner and the ability of the line as a whole to generate goals, he’s unlucky to have scored only 30 goals. 

Other positives? Dvorak is significantly older than Tkachuk (nearly two whole years older), so if we look at age adj. primary points Tkachuk is far ahead of Dvorak. These three also created an exceptionally potent powerplay as nearly half their goals came on the man advantage. However, of the three Tkachuk was the least reliant on powerplay points as 41% of his points came on the man advantage, compared to 44% of Marner’s and 51% of Dvorak’s.

Also, Dvorak shares the same unfortunate elite linemate problem as Tkachuk, as he played with Tkachuk and Marner this year, and played with Marner and Domi last year. 

I’ve only seen Tkachuk and the Knights play a few times but one thing that I noticed that comes out in the scouting reports is that Tkachuk is a heavy forechecker. In the times that I watched them, Tkachuk was always first in on the puck, digging and prying it out to find his teammates. If we assume that Marner is the playmaker and Dvorak, based on his goal totals, is the trigger man, this makes perfect sense why Tkachuk’s secondary assist rate is so high, as he’s likely often digging the puck out to find the other two. 

It’s difficult to tell if his secondary assist rate is bad or not but having a guy that can dig the puck out of the boards with great regularity and start the tic-tac-toe play could be hugely beneficial, especially with Calgary possessing an elite playmaker and trigger man combo already. 

So this is how Tkachuk compares to his linemates, and the very best in the OHL. But how does he compare to players his own age… the elite OHLers in his draft class? Below is the same breakdown as above but includes all draft eligible players in the OHL who registered a point per game or higher: Kyle Maksimovich, Taylor Raddysh, Alex Nylander, Michael McLeod, Logan Brown, Alex DeBrincat and Adam Mascherin.

Tkachuk 5

Tkachuk 6

In this regard, Tkachuk blows his peers out of the water in nearly every category. Propped up by his linemates or not, Tkachuk is still the best offensive draft eligible forward of the OHL this year. 

CONCLUSION

Tkachuk is an interesting case. He seems to be exactly what Calgary needs: a big, strong winger (not a right handed shot unfortunately), with a great forecheck that can possess the puck and find his teammates to create scoring chances. 

But it’s difficult to tell what impact he has on the game as he’s essentially only played with elite linemates the past two years. His secondary assists are likely inflated a little, which is probably, in turn, inflating his scoring and corresponding NHLE. However, even if his secondary assist rate resembled something like Marner’s (0.44 per game) his NHLE would drop but only slightly, to somewhere around the low 40s. That still keeps him firmly in the category of “this guy will play in the NHL and will likely be an impact scorer”. 

Scoring like this in junior is elite and among this game-breaker group (40+ NHLE in true draft year) Gagner and Yakupov are the exceptions, not the rule. If neither of Vancouver or Edmonton pick a defenseman with their picks I don’t think there’s any way this guy makes it to the Flames. If he does I think we should be ecstatic… he could be an absolutely perfect fit.

  • knappsacked

    Plus even just by watching clips of him play, he looks exactly like bennett. The way he skates and moves was a déjà vu moment for me. I think tkchuk would be a great fit for bennetts left wing. Thr trick now is to get mangiapane to learn rw.

  • Kevin R

    I think we just found Bennett’s soul mate. If you were taking him 1st over all I would be concerned about his numbers being carried by his line mates . But at #6, you couldn’t ask for more.

  • cunning_linguist

    Dubois or Nylander would be a win. We’re going to end up with Nylander though, he’s a notch below the other two. Move 6 and 53 to get the 4th or 5th spot

    • piscera.infada

      I’m not really sure a three to four year “project” pick in Jost really fits the current organizational epoch. I mean, I could see it if his skills were head-and-shoulders above everyone else, but I’m not sure that’s the case. People love to throw out the Toews comparison, but he’s such a one-off talent that it shouldn’t be thrown around capriciously (if at all) for any prospect.

      I have a lot of time for Jost, but not as a 6th overall pick in what should be viewed by Flames’ management as a very important draft. That said, I’d vastly prefer Jost (or Keller) to McLeod or Brown, or some of the other “off the board” ideas I’ve seen around these parts.

  • brodiegio4life

    just cause he may be a complimentary piece isn’t a bad thing. Monahan,gaudreau, and hopefully bennett will be the go to guys and if tkachuk can produce in a supporting role that’s fine.

  • piscera.infada

    Just a point of interest: are we going to be doing second-round/late first-round targets?

    I think the Flames should move heaven and earth for Debrincat, but it’s really tough to get a read on where he’s going to go–I’ve seen anywhere from late-first to late-second. Has anyone heard much on Will Bitten? Another undersized, skilled, “relentless” player.

      • Byron Bader

        Given they have Gaudreau Shinkaruk and Mangiapane and want to get bigger … I would be very surprised if they took Debrincat. Maybe if he somehow dropped into the 2nd round and is found money there. For the record I think he’s found money as a late 1st. But his size will drop him down significantly.

        • piscera.infada

          For all the opining about “size” and “beef”, and all that garbage, when did the Flames draft size over skill last year? Riley Bruce in the seventh?

          I think the 2014 draft changed the way this management group approaches their “size mandate”–which I’m still sceptical exists, and is a fools errand if it does. They went overwhelmingly in favour of size and “pugnacity” in that draft, and how many of those players are actually viable prospects at this point? Burke and Treliving (to a lesser extent) can wax poetic about “size in the west”, “big up the middle”, and “mean to their game” until they’re blue in the face, but ideas of the ideal roster aside, the draft is all about skill and upside. I just hope the Flames truly have learned that. If they decide to chase their tails for the next 3, 4, 5 years looking for the sasquatch, then this “rebuild” is in some serious trouble–to say nothing of team success long-term.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I’d rather the Flames just hope Benson falls to 35th overall (or trade up a few spots to get him). If he fully recovers from his injuries, I don’t see any reason he won’t live up to his early season billing as a top half 1st rounder.

      • Baalzamon

        Totally agree with you about Benson. He was never healthy this season, and he was still the best player on his team when he was in the lineup.

        Very similar to Shinkaruk’s disastrous draft +1 season, actually. He was injured the entire time, never really got on track, poor offensive production. He didn’t recover until just this season, arguably.

  • everton fc

    Dubois will be gone by the time we pick. If it’s between Nylander and Tkachuk, after much thought… I’d pick the latter. Tkachuk would be perfect w/Bennett. On the RW, I’d like to see Shinkaruk. Mangiapane will need time in the “A”, me thinks. Shinkaruk is ready, and I bet starts on the right-side, next season.

    Poirier needs to really needs to come to camp ready to play. Perhaps he’s nothing more than a grinder, like Ferland? A line of Ferland-Grant-Poirier wouldn’t be a bad 4th line…

    As for Jost, perhaps you trade a few picks to move up from #53, to a spot where he might be available.

  • Kevin R

    Don’t know if anyone else agrees but if Tkachuk & Dubois are gone & it comes down to Nylander, I wouldn’t be opposed to picking the best Dman in this draft. Nylander is not going to come in for a few years if his skill even does translate. Getting the best D into our pipeline could be just as valuable longterm for our team & even a very trade-able piece to get the top 6 forward next year. I would not be disappointed if we took Juolevi.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Interesting that, while he blows away the other high end draft eligibles in terms of total scoring/pace, that “blowing away” is due exclusively to secondary assists and powerplay points. Not that Tkachuk is a bad prospect, but it seems intuitive to me that a player who is being somewhat of a passenger on a line would see exactly those numbers as the ones that go up the most.

    • Baalzamon

      Yeah, but Tkachuk plays “the right way” so people don’t want to believe that he isn’t as good as they think he is.

      However, worth noting that Tkachuk was less dependent on the power play than his linemates were. That’s… interesting, to say the least.

      • King Quong

        Also worth noting, is the number one thing against Tkachuk that he plays with good guys and doesn’t necessarily carry them. That’s not really a problem as he’d likely play with either Gaudreau or Bennett who can carry enough. Tkachuk can finish and play with top guys he’ll have top guys with him so I wouldn’t worry about that.

        • Baalzamon

          There’s a difference between being a passenger in the OHL and a passenger in the NHL. Gagner was a 100+ point scorer when he was on a line with Kane in the OHL. He’s a replacement-level NHLer.

          Generally, players who don’t drive play in junior don’t do much in the NHL. That said, we don’t know that Tkachuk is in fact a passenger; I doubt Marner and Dvorak would have had as easy a time producing offense if their LW was Max Jones instead. Maybe they wouldn’t even have crested 100 points.

          • King Quong

            Agreed, I just meant that he doesn’t have to do it all and that you could argue the flames have the guys that they need to carry and just need complimentary players and I feel that Tkachuk has the skill set to do that. Obviously nobody has a crystal ball and anything can happen to anyone and ultimately they’re all human but I think Tkachuk will be a good player.

          • Baalzamon

            Indeed. I definitely understand why people are enthusiastic about Tkachuk. I’m coming around on him too, lately. Pretty much ever since the playoffs started, actually.

          • RealMcHockeyReturns

            Funny if talking about Sam Gagner…he is one of the more skilled RW UFAs this summer…I am NOT advocating for it, but would the Flames consider signing him for line 2 or 3 or possibly 1? He did score 8 points that one time…

          • freethe flames

            I’m not sure a 34 year old Brad Boyes fits into a team rebuilding nor does a small underwhelming Gagne. I would rather go with one of kids or trade for someone else.

        • SmellOfVictory

          I see this argument come up a lot, and I don’t particularly like it. There is an astronomical difference between carrying a line in juniors and carrying a line in the NHL. Almost anyone who becomes a top 6 forward in the NHL, regardless of whether they’re a complementary player or not, was a line carrier in junior.

          But all of that aside, as I mentioned, Tkachuk still looks like a decent prospect even if you take his linemates into consideration. He still fits in with the rest of the top handful of forwards available at #6, but I just don’t think he’s particularly far ahead of most of them (or in Nylander and Dubois’ cases, I think he’s a bit behind them).

  • KiLLKiND

    After learning more about each and doing some more of my own research on each of the 4-6 forwards I would be pretty satisfied with any.

    Tkachuk would most likely slot in as the 2nd line winger unless he somehow jumps over Gaudreau.

    Dubois is the most versatile as he can play all 3 forward positions but seems best s either LW or C. Having him would allow our coach to get creative with line combinations.

    Nylander would slot in alongside Gaudreau and either Bennett or Monahan. Any way If Nylander comes as advertised he puts up insane numbers with great hands, swift passing and a great finish. Sounds like a RW version of Gaudreau.

    I like Dubois and Tkachuk but Nylander would be the best addition to our team. Our powerplay could have a Nylander, Gaudreau, Brodie, Hamilton, and Bennett/Monahan. That would be deadly I think many people are undervaluing the value of a top line RW. Dubois and Tkachuk would be great additions, we need our top line to be full of 1st line players and neither of those would be top line RW’s. So it isn’t worth it to trade up, but if one of them falls to Calgary I won’t complain.

    • Baalzamon

      Tkachuk would most likely slot in as the 2nd line winger unless he somehow jumps over Gaudreau.

      I believe Tkachuk plays both wings. London used Marner on the point on the powerplay, and moved Tkachuk over to the right side.

      If the Flames draft Tkachuk, I think they’ll want him as the banger on the Monahan/Gaudreau line. That would leave Shinkaruk and one of Poirier, Pribyl, and Mangiapane (or perhaps someone not yet drafted; Benson?) to play with Bennett. More than satisfactory.

      • KiLLKiND

        That could be an option but not an ideal solution for even strength as it would still be better to have a right handed RW on our top line. Even if we don’t draft that player this year, we still need to aquirre one if we hope to make the playoffs.

        The drop off in trades lately though has me thinking if you need a player you have to draft and develop that player. Poirier doesn’t seem to be the top line RW we are looking for and unless Pribyl turns out better than I’m expecting which is above average 4th line RW, than we might have to sign Okposo who is reportedly looking for 7.5M which is too much for me.

        I’m open to other suggestions but Nylander sounds great and I think he might be undervalued because of his size, and the team he was on. Missisauga Steelheads were pretty bad finishing 14th out of 20 teams. Nylander also completely lead his team offensively.

  • Stan

    Its honestly pretty interesting how different the three players that could be available at #6 differ.

    Want a mid-sized, highly skilled sniper? Nylander. Would fit great on the Flames as both a RIGHT shot and RIGHT wing. Could slide right onto Bennetts wing as his version of Gaudreau, while being slid up to the top PP where his shot could be used to deadly effect.

    Want a big, jack-of-all trades two way forward? Dubois. Could fit in anywhere in the lineup and would help in all areas – EV, PP, & PK. His versatility is his best feature. Could play wing or center for Bennett or wing for Johnny and Mony.

    Want a big, elite complementary player? Tkachuk. Would fit great on the Flames as it sure seems like he is the missing piece on the top line. Literally everything he seems to do well are things that Monahan and Gaudreau lack. Is great on the forecheck, has great hands for tips in front and an excellent net front presence. Is also a bit of a shit disturber. Would complement Mony & Johnny perfectly.

    Really, unless the Flames go off the board, I don’t see how they could mess this pick up.

  • Stan

    Its honestly pretty interesting how different the three players that could be available at #6 differ.

    Want a mid-sized, highly skilled sniper? Nylander. Would fit great on the Flames as both a RIGHT shot and RIGHT wing. Could slide right onto Bennetts wing as his version of Gaudreau, while being slid up to the top PP where his shot could be used to deadly effect.

    Want a big, jack-of-all trades two way forward? Dubois. Could fit in anywhere in the lineup and would help in all areas – EV, PP, & PK. His versatility is his best feature. Could play wing or center for Bennett or wing for Johnny and Mony.

    Want a big, elite complementary player? Tkachuk. Would fit great on the Flames as it sure seems like he is the missing piece on the top line. Literally everything he seems to do well are things that Monahan and Gaudreau lack. Is great on the forecheck, has great hands for tips in front and an excellent net front presence. Is also a bit of a shit disturber. Would complement Mony & Johnny perfectly.

    Really, unless the Flames go off the board, I don’t see how they could mess this pick up.

  • Stan

    Its honestly pretty interesting how different the three players that could be available at #6 differ.

    Want a mid-sized, highly skilled sniper? Nylander. Would fit great on the Flames as both a RIGHT shot and RIGHT wing. Could slide right onto Bennetts wing as his version of Gaudreau, while being slid up to the top PP where his shot could be used to deadly effect.

    Want a big, jack-of-all trades two way forward? Dubois. Could fit in anywhere in the lineup and would help in all areas – EV, PP, & PK. His versatility is his best feature. Could play wing or center for Bennett or wing for Johnny and Mony.

    Want a big, elite complementary player? Tkachuk. Would fit great on the Flames as it sure seems like he is the missing piece on the top line. Literally everything he seems to do well are things that Monahan and Gaudreau lack. Is great on the forecheck, has great hands for tips in front and an excellent net front presence. Is also a bit of a shit disturber. Would complement Mony & Johnny perfectly.

    Really, unless the Flames go off the board, I don’t see how they could mess this pick up.

  • Backburner

    Watching a lot of clips of Tkachuk, he seems like he’s playing a lot on the right side?

    Although his numbers are inflated a bit, this kid has lots of skill, and will be dangerous in the NHL. In a weird way he reminds me of Iginla in a lot of ways.

    If he falls to 6, I would be pumped.

  • freethe flames

    I would prefer Dubious over Tkachuk but Tkachuk over Nylander but would not be unhappy with Nylander. Picking 6th does not give us much choice but see who is drafted ahead of us. Again the Flames staff might have a different player at 6 and we might get one of the top three defenders or we might trade down(I know I sound like a broken record)regardless I believe nothing happens with the pick until the draft floor.

    Like many Tkachuk sounds like the perfect fit to play with Bennett but there is also the nagging thought is he a passenger. The Memorial Cup gives him another chance to shine and I’m sure the Flames staff sans BT have good seats for tonight’s game.