Matthew Tkachuk’s rookie impact

Earlier this month I made a case for Mikael Backlund to be in the Selke Trophy conversation with the year he’s had so far. 

In recent weeks, there’s been another Calgary Flames forward getting some buzz for an end of season award. What about Matthew Tkachuk for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year? While guessing how voters might think it is a fool’s errand, I can tell you Tkachuk has impacted his team as much as any rookie has so far this season.

This article is less about making a case for Tkachuk to win the Calder and more just illustrating how impactful he’s been in his first NHL season. For Tkachuk to produce like he has in the situations he’s been put in is quite remarkable and makes him one of the more effective forwards in the league, regardless of age or experience. Let’s take a look at how he stacks up.

On the Flames

Where would the Flames be without Tkachuk this season? To be frank, they’d be without one of their most effective, productive, and consistent forwards, and thus, probably worse off. Used mainly on a line with Backlund and Michael Frolik, Tkachuk has been buried defensively while matched up against top end opposition on a regular basis. Illustrated below is how much Tkachuk has thrived relative to the rest of the team.

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It would be perfectly understandable for Tkachuk’s scoring to suffer taking on the responsibility he’s being asked to, but that hasn’t been the case. With nine goals and 31 points, Tkachuk sits tied for third on the team in scoring behind only Backlund and Dougie Hamilton. When you dig a little deeper into Tkachuk’s production, it becomes even more impressive.

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Per 60 minutes of even strength hockey, Tkachuk is Calgary’s most productive point producer. Yes, he’s getting the Backlund Bump and that definitely helps, but to discount the work Tkachuk has done would be unfair. After doing the research for this piece, it became even more clear just how worse off the Flames would be without Tkachuk in the fold this season.


While Tkachuk’s work relative to the rest of his non-rookie teammates is impressive, equally as sparkling is his work in comparison to his fledgling peers. Typically when evaluating and ranking rookies, many look at pure counting numbers before going deeper into context. Below are the top 10 rookie scorers this season.

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Seeing Tkachuk fifth in rookie scoring might not jump off the page for a voter in Toronto or Pittsburgh, but as we’ve already highlighted, his role on the Flames is pretty unique for a rookie. Of this season’s rookie class, no one else is taking on the type of defensive responsibility Tkachuk is on a nightly basis and it’s not really close.

To illustrate that, I took the four rookies ahead of Tkachuk in scoring and compared their possession, usage, and scoring metrics to his. In looking at the results below, I feel the difficulty of Tkachuk’s minutes even the scales a little bit on the scoring side.

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Tkachuk is on another level on the possession side of things. In fact, his 57.5% shot rate ranks him ninth overall in the NHL period. And yet, Tkachuk’s scoring metrics aren’t that far off from his higher scoring rookie peers. 


We don’t know how much more productive Tkachuk would be with less defensively slanted ice time. Nor do we know how guys like Matthews or Laine would do if they were shouldered with the responsibility Tkachuk deals with each and every night. But what I think was important to illustrate here is how Tkachuk deserves to be in the conversation of most impactful rookies in the league this season.

A guy like Matthews or Laine will likely win the Calder Trophy, and that’s fine. The goal of this piece was not to suggest he should. But you can’t tell me from watching Tkachuk play this season and then digesting the numbers above he’s not impacting his team as much as any other rookie in the league. He’s just doing it a little differently.

    • redhot1

      Tkachuk will also have to fight the fact that Marner and Matthews are having better seasons. If you don’t recognize that, I think it’s you that has a bias.

      • Cfan in Vic

        They’re only having better seasons by pure scoring metrics, not necessarily impact on their teams. Give them 35% zone starts and see if they can put up the same numbers…

        • SmellOfVictory

          I don’t think it’s arguable at all: Matthews has been the best rookie this season. He’s been running a line with two other rookies most of the year, and he’s doing extremely well. Tkachuk has been a very pleasant surprise, and I do think he should get finalist consideration, but nobody but Matthews should be winning the award at this point.

  • Crakupov

    Tkachuk has been a decent addition, much better than Puljujarvi in Edmonton, but no way has he had a bigger impact than Laine in Winnipeg or Mathews in Toronto.

    He’s been a good player for Calgary just not award winning.

    • OKG

      Now I realize +/- can be flawed stat but:

      Laine – +7 on a -12 team playing with Scheifele/Ehlers
      Tkachuk – +7 on a -15 team playing with Backlund/Frolik

      It’s pretty disingenuous to say his impact has been less than Laine. Considering that he has much better possession numbers than Laine (+9.11% CFRel vs -3.38% CFRel). I’d argue Laine has the better “Lain”mates too as while Backlund may or may not be a 1C, Schiefele has established him as a definite 1C.

  • Kevin R

    Like the suggestions in Ari’s thread, maybe it’s time to see if MT can shift to a different role & play RW with Monahan & Gaudreau. It would be interesting to do these charts under that scenario for the last 30 games & get a feel what we have in this kid. We may also be able to salvage another important struggling piece & shift Bennett to play with Backs & Frolik.

    I wasn’t sure when we drafted him, so much hype on the other two kids on his line in London, I wasn’t expecting much. But I have sure been impressed & thrilled to know he’ll be wearing a Flames Jersey in the future.

  • Jay (not J)

    Sure, why not? While you’re at it, why not give GG the Jack Adams and Elliot the Vezina? Backlund for Selke should be automatic, maybe we can give Hamilton and Gio a split on the Norris and Wideman can have the Hart.

    And why stop at rookie of the year? Can’t we give LittleT the Lady Byng as well?

  • Scary Gary

    I love Tkachuk Pat, he’s exceeded my and likely everyone else’s expectation but there’s one thing he needs to work on, his minor penalties. He’s taken a league leading 31 minors so I don’t think that helps his chances.

    As a team we lead the league in minor penalties taken at 227, a full 23 more than the next highest team (Jets). To put that into context the Hurricanes have taken 121 (the least).

    On top of Tkachuk’s 31, Bennett is 7th with 24, Dougie is tied for 9th with 22, Gio is tied for 13th with 20, and Frolik is tied for 18th with 18. All of these penalties are killing us.

    • Nick24

      You also have to look at penalty differential. Tkachuk has drawn more than he’s taken, and that’s valuable.

      Tkachuk has been incredible this year, and if he was put into the role that either of Matthews or Liane are in, I’d wager that he’d be scoring at a similar rate.

      • Scary Gary

        Good point, definitely drawing penalties and being engaged in the play is valuable but he needs to cut down on his penalties by at least a third and ideally in half.

  • cjc

    I’ll start by saying I think Laine has the edge over Matthews right now, but it’s awfully close.

    Tkachuk is awesome though. Steinberg forgot to menthion that Tkachuk is younger than Marner, Matthews and Nylander (okay, only 3 months younger than Matthews, but still).

  • Derzie

    Awards, like the All-Star game, are based on media and popularity, not results. Matthew’s numbers are on another level if we are looking at 2-way rookies. The media looks at 1 way rookies and specifically ones with big market hype. It will be Matthews or Laine but our boy is looking really good.

  • Burnward

    Has there been a comparable rookie recently that is close in PIM’s and PPG? Obviously the PIM’s are too high, but he’s always engaged. Often taking someone with him or drawing them too.

        • JBulls

          Did you read the article? Everything regarding his impact is right there. Are you even capable of reading? I’d be shocked if you are.

          Playoff contender? This team was expected to be a bubble team, who would fight for a playoff spot, and that’s exactly where they are. Even with the horrible past few weeks they’ve had.

          And please. Save us the incredibly hilarious irony of an Oilers fan talking about another team being a ‘perennial bottom feeder club’. I really hope I don’t have to remind you of where the Oilers have been for the past 10 years. Congrats on getting it right after a decade of embarrassment and multiple first overalls. You must have some serious short term memory. Time to stop huffing glue.

    • Kevin R

      Hey meathead! Write July 1/2018 on your calendar down. It’ll be the day Treliving or Benning will be offer sheeting your boy McDavid & it aint going to be pretty. In fact I think maybe Sweeney maybe there doing a 3rd offer sheet to really push the price you guys will have to match up just to put it to Chia boy. Payback can be bi@tch!

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I just lost several brain cells reading some of the comments. Recess is over boys… back to class.

    We’ve had some bad posters, but never comments this juvenile.

    • Stan

      It’s getting so bad that I’ve basically stopped commenting on this site. Certainly way less than I normally do. There’s no room for reasoned, civilized discussion with so many f*cking dialtones ruining the comment section. Why am I not surprised that they are all oilers fans…

      It honestly just really really sucks. I come to this site for intelligent insight and discussion about the Flames and it’s nigh impossible to do that these days because of all the trolls. Almost ready to stop coming here altogether. Wish the moderators would start dishing out IP bans but you know that’ll never happen cause they wouldn’t want to eliminate any traffic… smfh.

  • KenBone18

    I love Tkachuk – he’s a little pest and he plays with grit but he can score – he’s our own version of Brad Marchand.

    He’s got the Marchand slew foot down in his first season as well – a true force to be reckoned with. Even if he doesn’t get the calder he definitely impacts our games vs other teams.

  • LTFan

    The comparison to Marchand is partially a compliment. The compliment is that Marchand can be an excellent player. The downside – He can also be outright dirty and hurts his team with some of his antics. Tkachuk can play but the stupid penalties he takes are hurting his team.

    It is a team sport and not about MT.

  • RickT

    FN Mod: removing your comment as its parent has been removed by another moderator.

    This is not a reflection of you, although, you should refrain from responding to obvious trolling/flamebait. Just is no longer needed as the parent comment has been removed.

  • DeadRedRedemption

    Thank you mods for cleaning this shit up.

    There is no point in reading/posting here if the trolls are running rampant. I had moved on to another site for a few days because nothing was being done about it.

    Hopefully you have the stamina to keep pace with the Oilers trolls. Maybe a geo location ban of any IP originating in Edmonton would be a good start?


  • DeadRedRedemption

    Thank you mods for cleaning this shit up.

    There is no point in reading/posting here if the trolls are running rampant. I had moved on to another site for a few days because nothing was being done about it.

    Hopefully you have the stamina to keep pace with the Oilers trolls. Maybe a geo location ban of any IP originating in Edmonton would be a good start?


  • DeadRedRedemption

    Thank you mods for cleaning this shit up.

    There is no point in reading/posting here if the trolls are running rampant. I had moved on to another site for a few days because nothing was being done about it.

    Hopefully you have the stamina to keep pace with the Oilers trolls. Maybe a geo location ban of any IP originating in Edmonton would be a good start?


  • imthedude63

    Kachook is having a great rookie season and is doing things alongs the boards and in front of the net beyond his years. He is hard to play against…as a 19 year old imagine where his game is going to be in a few years. He will clean up the penalties as he gets stronger a bit faster foot speed and smarter. He reminds me of Tomas Holstrom in how he works the front of the net. I love watching this kid play!

    He is not going to win the Calder but I am sure glad he is a Flame. He will be an important core part of this team for years to come. As for Laine and Matthews there not to bad either!

  • Just.Visiting

    I love the talent, the further upside, the smarts, the grit and how much he cares.

    I’m not at all liking the undisciplined penalties and the tendency to imitate Sean Avery. He can be so much better than that, and I think it hurts the team and his own development.

  • Just.Visiting

    And let’s keep asking to try him with Sean and Johnny. It can’t possibly be worse than the other RW options that have been tried and having Sam with the Mikes might get him back on course.

    If it works, this would also solve the huge RW problem.