The last couple years have been seasons of challenges overcome and transitions made for Matthew Tkachuk. Following a couple strong seasons in the United States National Development Team in the USHL he made a transition to the Ontario Hockey League, joining the powerhouse London Knights. Rather than fade into the background on a deep team, he emerged as one-third of the most dangerous line in junior hockey.
He’s also added to his hockey resume quite impressively: the past two years have seen him win gold at the World Under-18s, bronze at the World Juniors, an OHL championship and a Memorial Cup – which was capped off by his overtime heroics in the clinching game, despite his mobility being hampered by a lingering ankle injury. Based on these accolades, it’s probably not shocking to hear that the Flames were quite excited when he fell to them at sixth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo.
After so many accomplishments in such a short time frame, it’s refreshing to see how focused on improving Tkachuk is – somewhat reminiscent of Sean Monahan three summers ago. Speaking with the media at Flames development camp prior to signing his entry-level deal, Tkachuk reflected on how unique his camp experience was.
“It’s definitely special to put on
the jersey,” said Tkachuk. “It’s a practice jersey, you’re still part of the
organization the first time you step on the ice for practice and you
know all the prospects and guys that they’re really looking at,
they’re all equal out there and they’re all trying to make the team
eventually in September. This is kind of the first step and it’s kind
of getting your foot in the door.”
In the minds of both fans and media, Tkachuk has drawn some comparisons to recent draftees like Monahan and Sam Bennett. Both of those individuals were highly-touted picks selected from the OHL, and both of them took advantage of the opportunities they saw at training camp to crack the NHL roster in their draft-plus-one season. (Granted, Bennett spent most of the 2014-15 season on the injured non-roster list recovering from shoulder surgery.)
“[They] are just two unbelievable
players and such special players,” said Tkachuk, seemingly downplaying the comparisons. “They made it really early in their
careers and I want to do the same. That all starts with this week and
how I prepare myself for the rest of the summer.”
The Flames have a pretty obvious hole on their left side, in the second line slot behind Johnny Gaudreau. There’s an opportunity to be had by Tkachuk. What does he have to do over the summer to get ready for main camp?
“Basically what I did all day
today: wake up, have a good lift and have a good workout in the
morning, then come have a little practice,” said Tkachuk. “And if I’m not doing
practice, which I probably won’t do everyday in the summer cause it’s
so early, but I’ll be power skating a lot and that’s what I need to
get my skating and get my explosiveness and just get quicker. The
NHL’s a fast league, everybody knows that, so I guess those are the
Tkachuk’s had an immense amount of success over the past two seasons. And he sounds incredibly focused on the opportunity in front of him, rather than consumed by everything he’s accomplished. If that sounds a lot like how Monahan and Bennett sounded at the 2013 and 2014 development camps, it’s because it’s almost word-for-word from the same playbook. Considering how well those two gentlemen have turned out in the NHL, there’s probably some reason for (cautious) excitement regarding the possibility of Tkachuk being a Flame on October 12.