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 will start the season with the #Flames, according to Gulutzan. “You all know the magic number.”
— Aaron Vickers (@AAVickers) October 6, 2016
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.