Matthew Tkachuk has made the Flames – for now

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Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

The Calgary Flames’ opening night roster isn’t decided – not quite yet. Their final preseason game is tonight, and the opening night roster is expected to be decided by Saturday.

We already know a bunch of guys who will be on the team for sure. Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Johnny Gaudreau in extreme likelihood… and Matthew Tkachuk.

The Flames’ sixth overall pick from this past June – the one with two goals in four preseason games – has made the team. For now, at least.


Tkachuk should make his NHL debut on Oct. 12 – a mere six days away – although that isn’t a guarantee quite yet (though it’s hard to imagine him not being in the lineup)! He’s the first Flames draft pick to step right into the NHL since fellow sixth overall pick Sean Monahan back in 2013.

This doesn’t mean Tkachuk has officially made the NHL, though. Not yet: he’s got another nine games to audition for that, just like Monahan did three years ago.

Monahan opened his NHL career with one assist and two shots on net in 11:40 played in a shootout loss to the Washington Capitals. He really started to turn it on as his nine games progressed, though. He scored six goals and nine points, generated 21 shots on net, and went as high as 21:11 in ice time in a win over the Los Angeles Kings.

All that led Monahan to a 22-goal, 34-point rookie season.

Can Tkachuk do the same? Monahan did get hot at just the right time – he had a 28.6 shooting percentage to kick off his NHL career, but fell to 15.7% over the course of his entire rookie season – and he did struggle at times throughout his rookie year, particularly after returning from a broken foot. Tkachuk does have the NHL size and the scoring pedigree right now, though, which makes him a great candidate to stay up.

Tkachuk also has the benefit of stepping in on a team better equipped for success. The forward lineup is much more established than it was back in 2013, when Monahan made his debut alongside Sven Baertschi and David Jones. Presumably, Tkachuk will be playing alongside his preseason linemates Sam Bennett, who himself had a 36-point rookie season and will no doubt be looking to grow on that; and Troy Brouwer, a veteran forward who consistently finds himself around the 40-point range.

But first up: nine games. The Flames have back-to-backs against the Edmonton Oilers, and will also play the Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues twice, Chicago Blackhawks, and finally, the Ottawa Senators for game number nine on Oct. 28. We’ll see if Tkachuk dresses for all of them, but it’s not a bad start for him to get his feet wet.

And if Tkachuk does end up making it for the full year, you have to think at least 35 points or so should be in his cards, right? Monahan did it, Bennett did it, and Tkachuk certainly has the ability to do it, too. It continues to be up to him.

  • Christian Roatis

    Maybe a 35 point rookie season to fit in-between the 34 and 36 point rookie seasons from Monahan and Bennett? To satisfy the Freemasons and such.

  • JumpJet

    He’s earned his nine games for sure. I hope that the Flames take there time giving him those nine games and aren’t shy to scratch him if things don’t go well. It seemed to help Johnny in his rookie season.

  • Parallex

    I figured.

    Ordinarily I’d rather have the Flames not rush to put the shiny new toy right in the line-up. Really it’s just that you can look at an NHL career as development years, prime years, and decline years so I’d rather have the Flames have the cost controlled period eat up more of the prime years and less of the development years… but in this case I’m fine with it. The Flames are right up against the cap as a result of some questionable personnel decisions and we’re lacking legit talent to round out the top 6.

    If we’re to get any more scoring talent it’s gonna have to come from ELC’s so I’m okey with it. I hope Shinkaruk makes the Flames for the same reason.

    I’d feel pretty solid about a Fwd line-up of

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Shinkaruk

    Tkachuk-Bennett-Brouwer

    Ferland-Backlund-Frolik

    Bouma-Stajan-Chiasson

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      I agree with what you said, but have an alternative lineup:

      Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland

      Tkachuk-Bennett-Brouwer

      Shinkaruk-Backlund-Frolik

      Bouma-Stajan-Chiasson

      Ex. Freddie, Vey

      Ferland has looked to be the best of the rest on RW. Only Brouwer and Frolik have been as good or better. Shinkaruk adds a bit of a scoring touch to Backlund’s line. You know Backlund is going to hit the goalie with a shot, unless it’s already a rebound. Shinkaruk can clean up the rebounds for that line. Adding Freddie and Vey puts two RHS centers on the roster, something we don’t have. Gives you more options than just Stajan.

    • jakethesnail

      I would put Ferland with Johnny and Monny until Shinkaruk has more pro playing time, either with the Flames or the Heat. If he stays with the Flames place him with Backs-Frolik.

      NOTE: I just saw that I agree with FlamesFanOtherCity….Great minds!

  • supra steve

    He’s showed well enough to be on the roster on opening night, I doubt this kid falls off in his 9 game trial, I predict he’s here to stay. There’s absolutely no downside in this.

  • beloch

    The Tkachuk-Bennett-Brouwer has been the Flames’ best line in the pre-season. Tkachuk also deserves credit for really reigning in his penalty minutes. He hasn’t been quite the same non-stop hate-train he was in Penticton, but he’s also not costing his team tens of penalty minutes per game. Tkachuk being able to flip his switch like that could be very useful, especially if the Flames make it into the post-season when the refs put away their whistles. A smart agitator is a tremendously useful thing!

    • everton fc

      We don’t have anyone, other than Ferland, who could fit on that line. We have to keep Tkachuk for the season. Why break up a line that is the only line in the pre-season that hasn’t been tampered with? Makes no sense….

    • Baalzamon

      It’s like 49 I think (I think the OHL NHLE factor is currently at 0.32). Most likely a bit high as an estimate considering he spent so much time with Marner and played like 30 minutes a game.

    • McRib

      I believe Tkachuk actually had the highest NHLe of all draft eligibles last season (however Matthews numbers on USNTDP year before were better), as Baalzamon has pointed out he was playing in a good situation, but it’s hard to blame the kid for literally out producing everyone else in his draft class. Drafting the NHLe leader at sixth overall regardless of the situation he was in is mightily impressive for us to say the least.

    • beloch

      If you include the playoffs, when Tkachuk was playing with a sprained ankle, his NHLE was 51.4.

      NHLE is reliable on a population level. i.e. If you calculate the NHLE of every single player going from the OHL to the NHL, the average of their points should be very close to their average NHLE. On the level of individual players, NHLE can be high or, just as likely, low.

      To put Tkachuk’s performance last season into context, his linemates had NHLE’s of 56.0 (Mitch Marner) and 53.9 (Christian Dvorak). Both were slightly higher than Tkachuk’s, but they were in their draft+1 and draft+2 seasons respectively. It’s likely that this entire line’s numbers were a bit inflated from playing with each other, but it does not appear to be the case that Tkachuk was a passenger being taken for a ride. The fact that his NHLE was so close to those of his linemates indicates he was pulling his own weight, even while playing injured.

      It’s also worth noting that Tkachuk is going to be in a better position to meet or exceed his NHLE than Monahan was. When Monahan came to the NHL, he was put on a line with Colborne and Hudler. Yes, Joe Colborne. That’s a pretty heavy possession anchor for a 18-year-old centre to shoulder! Tkachuk is playing a position that is generally easier for rookies to jump into than centre, plus he’s playing with Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer. Although Brouwer is a very different player than Hudler, he produces points in the same ballpark. Bennett, on the other hand, is a huge upgrade on Colborne, and he’ll be playing centre. Additionally, the Monahan-Gaudreau line should draw top competition more than the Backlund-Cammalleri line did, meaning Tkachuk should get more shelter in his rookie season than Monahan did.

      Bottom line, the Tkachuk-Bennett-Brouwer line has every reason to be better than the Colborne-Monahan-Hudler line was in Monahan’s rookie season. Tkachuk still needs to prove he’s NHL ready, but he’s off to a great start and has a real shot at beating Monahan’s rookie season numbers.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    It feels good that for the past four years we have been having these conversations about an up and coming exciting forward prospect. Monahan, Gaudreau, Bennett and now Tkachuk.

    Reflecting back on Flames history, have we ever had it so good with Flames draft picks?

    The fact that Monahan slipped to us at 6, Johnny in the 4th round, Bennett at 4 and Tkachuk at 6 is just plain glorious. Throw in the Dougie trade and drafting Brodie and it’s just not fair.

    The idea that we are just as well off with the prospects & young stars we have as compared to a team that tanked hard for the same result is pretty sweet.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Don’t recall Monahan slipping to 6th as he was never in anybody’s top 5 pre-draft rankings. He was speculated for as Calgary’s first pick for months prior to the draft. The knocks on him at that time were the serious injury he had had during his draft year and that he played on a very bad 67s club.

      FN MODERATOR: The rest of this comment was deleted. Racist, derogatory language is not tolerated.

      • wot96

        There was always some question as to whether Carolina would take Lindholm or Monahan so it could be said that Monahan “slipped”. The real faller in that draft class was Seth Jones.

        I’m glad it worked out as it did.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        Drai was a bust in his first 33 games. Sent him back to junior. He did well there. His 2nd season was much better for the first bit, then he tailed off.

        Bennett rehabbed and went to junior, and finished it off by turning heads in the NHL playoffs.

        He was #1 for most of the year on Central Scouting’s list. Reinhart may turn out to be a great player, but I haven’t liked what I have seen in the other brothers.

        I would have to say that the top 4 in 2014 will all have good careers. Some may become elite.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          Busted by the always vigilant and always knowing forces of political correctness who are making this site and our world a kinder and gentler place.

          Having never visited the HHOF, would somebody please tell me how the HHOF refers to the famed Bruins line of Schmidt, Dumart and Bauer? Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t it called the German-Canadian line? Or was it called the Canadians of German Ancestry line? I seem to recall my father saying that as this trio was playing at a time when political relations between Germany and Canada were not especially warm, the line was known as the German-Canadian Friendship line. I even heard a dirty old man once call this trio the Kraut line but he clearly didn’t know what he was talking about because the old racist also called Normie Kwong the China Clipper! Astounding, eh?

      • McRib

        Monahan was projected to go 5-6 by most people as you correctly have said leading up to the draft, but most actually considered Monahan a Top. 3 pick the summer before his draft year. The reason he feel in the rankings during the season was because he played on a horrific Ottawa 67s team and “only” put up 78 points (PPG was more impressive at 1.35). The most telling stat though of that season that most scouts obviously ingnored is he had 38 more points than his next closest teammate in a limited 58 GP. A sixteen year old rookie (Dante Salituro) was second in scoring with only 40 points, that’s what he was working with his draft year. I watched Monahan a couple of times his draft year and it was pathetic there were numberous games where he should have multiple assists and would walk away pointless. If he was on a middle of the run club he would have cracked 90+ points in his sleep and have still been a Top. 3 pick.

    • Jeremy

      I take umbrage to the statement that “we are just as well off with the prospects & young stars we have as compared to a team that tanked hard for the same result is pretty sweet.

      IMHO we’re way better off.

  • FireScorpion

    Any one else pumped up for seeing our young pitbulls unleashed on the Oilers the first 2 games? Bennett and Tkachuk and Brouwer are gonna be a PAIN

    Edit. Brouwer the old dog with the pups of course

  • FireScorpion

    I’m so excited for the season! Come on Johnny put pen to paper and come riding in on the white donkey with palm branches set in front. I know it’s not Easter cut it feels like Christmas

    • Scootsy Doubleday

      With as much time as you’ve spent on oilers nation I thought I’d come and say hello..

      I love how greedy this is making “the little turd” look…
      It’s completely in line with the whole “I have to copywrite my nickname” joke.

      He’s a self centred little punk… and it’s gonna bite his ass.

  • jakethesnail

    Agreed that Monahan did not fall to 6th – he was projected at no 6in the draft.

    Bennett was tabbed as the no.1 prospect by NHL Central Scouting. However, he failed to complete even one pull-up during testing at the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto. And thus he went lower in the draft to the Flames. Shoulder injury not muscle weakness!

  • seve927

    I was a little skeptical of this pick. Third highest scorer on his line in junior, maybe 5th best player on his team (Juolevi,Parsons). From what I’ve seen from him now, I couldn’t be more excited. He looks like everything he was built up to be.

  • I haven’t seen a single preseason game so I really can’t say I know what to expect from this guy except from what I read here. By the sounds of it, that line seems to be the real deal. The Penticton game I saw he was undisciplined and raw.

    I can’t say that I have a real problem with either him being sent down or staying up (if he earns it). Cheering for him for sure.