It’s almost decision time for Brad Treliving when it comes to Matthew Tkachuk.
The Flames’ 18-year-old rookie has played in six games so far, scoring a goal and an assist. If he plays in 10 NHL games, the first year of his entry level deal will be triggered, starting the clock on his artificially capped contract.
Aside from cap concerns, there are two other considerations: can Tkachuk help the team win now and what is best for his development?
By eye, the kid hasn’t looked totally out of place in the NHL so far, though his role has been relatively marginal. His 12:11 per game average ice time so far is the fourth lowest of all skaters on the team, ahead of only Alex Chiasson, Micheal Ferland and Freddie Hamilton.
That’s not uncommon for young players just breaking into the league, of course, but if Tkachuk is going to be limited to a third or fourth line role for the season it suggests he’s not entirely essential to the team’s success. That said, if he can take a step or two forward, he could fill a much needed top six role for the club.
As for development, it’s a judgement call that can be argued both ways. Tkachuk is already pro-sized at 6’2″ and 202 lbs, so he’s physically mature enough to compete now. He also tore apart the OHL last year en route to a Memorial Cup, suggesting he has little else to prove at the junior level.
Nevertheless, there is some question of how much Tkachuk was driving the bus for London last year since he was playing on a line with Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak. Going back for one more season will allow him to be the primary difference maker on his team from start to finish.
Burn a year of the ELC, help the team win and personal development – how do you weigh those three factors? What would you do if you were Brad Treliving?