He didn’t go first overall – he went sixth. But it’s possible Matthew Tkachuk was the happiest draftee of them all when the Calgary Flames called his name. He simply could not stop gushing about how excited he was to be a Flame – and it didn’t sound quite like the things you’d expect a draft pick to say.
“I have 80, 100 friends and family here that are so excited for me because deep down they know how much I loved Calgary, and how good of a fit it is,” Tkachuk said. He then added: “They’re smart hockey people so they know what’s good and what’s not so good, and they know Calgary is the spot to be.”
High, high praise for his new team.
“This was the team circled on my list”
Ever since the combine, Tkachuk has been all about Calgary. “I had them circled since I talked to them at the combine and visited them after the combine, and that’s the place I wanted to be and the place I’m going to have the best shot.”
Everything about the Flames is exciting to him, from the youth on the roster to the off-season they’ve had so far, including the hiring of their new coach, Glen Gulutzan. It’s especially encouraging for Tkachuk that the Flames are such a young team, because it shows that they’re willing to give him a shot – though he knows he’ll have to earn it.
“It’s good when they give the young guys a shot, and that’s what you want,” Tkachuk said. “You want to play sooner than later, so I guess it’s a good thing. But they don’t just give you the opportunity, you have to earn it and I’m going to do everything in my power to try to earn a spot.”
As for all that youth on the team, he knows that the Flames are missing some elements in their top six, and he thinks he’s the perfect guy to fill them.
“I think they have some spots that they need to fill when it comes to a player that provides some of my strengths, and I hope to do that sooner than later. I hope to be a difference maker soon,” Tkachuk said.
He was glowing throughout his media availability, clearly impressed with Calgary’s management and the way the team is run. They left a great impression on him, so it’s easy to see why he was so happy.
While Tkachuk doesn’t know any Flames players yet, that isn’t a problem. “I’m a pretty friendly guy, so I’ll get to know them pretty well,” he said.
“It’s such a relief”
Before the Columbus Blue Jackets went off the board at third overall, many had Matthew Tkachuk projected to go in the fourth spot: with the Edmonton Oilers.
With both them and the Vancouver Canucks picking ahead of the Flames, you can’t help but wonder just what, exactly, Tkachuk thinks of them.
“It’s such a relief to go to a team that you want to go to,” Tkachuk said, “and it makes it that much better. Everybody says how special it is to play in the NHL, but if you really love the team that picked you, it makes it that much better, and it’s an unbelievable feeling right now.”
Those were his exact words. He was clearly stoked about playing for Calgary – and he never mentioned Edmonton or Vancouver by name. Edmonton, however, does have a rather poor track record of the past decade or so, and Vancouver doesn’t appear to be on much of an upswing any time soon – not like Calgary appears to be.
It was noted that he didn’t seem too upset at falling in the draft – to which Tkachuk responded emphatically, “This was the team circled on my list. I wanted to go to a team that really wants you and a team that you really want to play for.”
Tkachuk also emphasized his winning mentality – something that winning the Memorial Cup no doubt bolstered. “I’ve been able to win recently, and I want to bring that mentality to the Calgary Flames.”
I got the impression that Tkachuk sees Calgary as a team with an extremely bright future on the horizon – a future he no doubt is excited to contribute to.
This and that
Tkachuk is excited to be a part of the Battle of Alberta.
“I like playing in those games, the rivalry games, the big games. I like trying to come through in those games and be a difference maker, and I hope to do that in the Battle of Alberta,” Tkachuk said. He has a sense of what it’s like to be part of a big rivalry – through the OHL, and through international competition as an American – but the NHL is on another level. “It’s going to be so fun to be a part of that rivalry.”
By playing in London this year, Tkachuk got the experience of playing in a Canadian market. He already knows what it’s like to bring a championship to such a team – and he wants to do it again with the Flames.
— #FlamesDraft (@NHLFlames) June 25, 2016
Something to watch out for? Tkachuk said he played both left and right wing this past season, and he found the adjustment “pretty easy”. So will he one day be on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, or with Sam Bennett? That’s still very much up in the air.
He also doesn’t have a preference for a number just yet – but we know he’s not getting his #7 he played with for the London Knights, that’s for sure.