How does Tkachuk’s rookie season compare to Monahan, Gaudreau, and Bennett’s?

For the past four seasons, including this one, the Calgary Flames have had the chance to feature a prominent rookie in their lineup. Taken at sixth overall in 2013, Sean Monahan was the first draft pick of the rebuild, and he made the NHL right away. Johnny Gaudreau, having taken every challenge the NCAA could have possibly thrown at him, played his rookie year the season after. Sam Bennett followed up with his the next season.

This season, Matthew Tkachuk has been that rookie. Just like with the previous three, there were questions as to whether he’d be able to make the team full-time at all. Now, over 50 games through the season, we’re seeing him be one of the Flames’ most impactful players.

Points

Tkachuk has 34 points in 52 games so far: good for fourth in team scoring. He’s on pace for 51 points this season.

Like Tkachuk, none of his fellow then-rookies actually did play a full 82 games. Monahan missed seven games with a broken foot. Gaudreau was a healthy scratch twice, including once because the Flames were resting him for the playoffs. Bennett missed five games of his rookie season with various ailments.

Even then, though, they were all still able to play most of the season, as it looks like Tkachuk is poised to.

So let’s go back to the points. Here’s where everyone was at this stage of the season (Feb. 12) in their respective rookie years:

Player GP Goals Assists Points SOG SH% ATOI
Monahan 51 16 8 24 97 16.5 15:59*
Gaudreau 54 15 26 41 106 14.2 17:43*
Bennett 53 15 13 28 96 15.6 15:09*
Tkachuk 52 10 24 34 98 10.2 14:20

* average ice time over full rookie season

Clearly the standout rookie is Gaudreau. He did have a 64-point rookie season, though, and is (so far) the only Calder finalist out of this group, so that makes sense. He was also trusted with more ice time than the other rookies pretty much from the beginning, such was his generally undeniable offensive prowess.

Tkachuk does stand out in a couple of stats. His own ice time is lower than everyone else’s average, however that may be in part due to the fact we don’t yet have his end-of-season results (because those games haven’t been played yet), which may very well bring him up to numbers closer to Monahan and Bennett’s.

More strikingly, though, is that Tkachuk has not scored as many goals as the others, but clearly not for lack of trying. His shot rates are about the same as Monahan and Bennett’s, but his shooting percentage is much lower; he may, in fact, have more to give. Nevertheless, he’s still putting up more points at this stage of the season than Monahan and Bennett did thanks to his assists tallies. (Hell, if he had Gaudreau’s shooting percentage, he’d be rivalling him in points put up.)

Underlyings

Points are one thing, but what situation a rookie is played in and how well he responds to it tell a big part of the story, too.

Player 5v5 CF% 5v5 OZS%
Monahan 43.81 33.59
Gaudreau 46.49 38.59
Bennett 48.71 33.45
Tkachuk 56.86 21.53

Tkachuk’s numbers immediately stand out. Not only is his corsi significantly better than his teammates’ rookie years, it’s just flat out good in general. A caveat comes with it, though, in that Tkachuk is playing his rookie season under Glen Gulutzan, not Bob Hartley; Monahan and Gaudreau are both currently above 50% 5v5 CF for the first time under Gulutzan, too.

Meanwhile, Tkachuk’s offensive zone starts are substantially lower than those of his teammates. Again, it’s not even comparable. Bennett did noticeably better than Monahan in roughly the same circumstances and Gaudreau was understandably sheltered while racking up points, but Tkachuk’s numbers show an underlying maturity to his game none of his fellow rookies possessed.

Linemates

Not all rookie seasons are created equal. Monahan was first up, playing in the midst of a rebuilding team that had few players of note. Gaudreau followed, being a whirlwind of excitement in his own right. Bennett came in on a team that was getting better and could afford to shelter him, and Tkachuk is starting off on a team with the most options yet that seems to be about to turn the corner.

Player Linemate 1 Shared 5v5 TOI Linemate 2 Shared 5v5 TOI
Monahan Colborne 397:04 Hudler 363:30
Gaudreau Hudler 778:22 Monahan 528:46
Bennett Frolik 360:26 Backlund 353:41
Tkachuk* Backlund 507:44 Frolik 498:19

* keeping in mind that he’s still played roughly 25 or so fewer games at this point

Monahan clearly lost the linemate battle, while everyone else is doing pretty well for themselves. It is perhaps worth noting that Tkachuk is putting up better results with the same linemates Bennett had as a rookie; at the same time, Tkachuk has had the most consistency to his linemates (although Gaudreau is up there, too).

All in all

The Flames had been witness to three pretty good rookie seasons the past three seasons, but only one of those was truly exceptional: Gaudreau’s. He scored at an incredible pace and he was trusted with more ice time, though he was sheltered more and had some help from some pretty decent linemates.

Tkachuk is looking to have a better rookie season than Monahan and Bennett for sure, though. He’s already ahead of them offensively, and his underlying numbers are freakishly dominant. True, he also gets the benefit of good linemates – but so far he doesn’t have the benefit of decent ice time, nor does he have offensive zone starts working in his favour. At all.

Tkachuk is probably going to have to really turn it on if he wants to have a rookie season as tangibly successful as Gaudreau’s was, but even if he doesn’t, he’s still performing beyond expectations. Now, the hope is that he can keep it up: for both this season, and well into the future.

The Flames may not have a high profile rookie like these four in their lineup next season, but we’ve arguably been spoiled already. If that’s the case, Tkachuk is a hell of a closer.

  • Just.Visiting

    He’s adapted much better than I had expected, has very good hands, is smart and is a consistent competitor.

    I’d like to see him continue to play tough without some of the Avery like behaviours that are a distraction and ultimately hurt the team.

  • Just.Visiting

    He’s adapted much better than I had expected, has very good hands, is smart and is a consistent competitor.

    I’d like to see him continue to play tough without some of the Avery like behaviours that are a distraction and ultimately hurt the team.

  • Just.Visiting

    He’s adapted much better than I had expected, has very good hands, is smart and is a consistent competitor.

    I’d like to see him continue to play tough without some of the Avery like behaviours that are a distraction and ultimately hurt the team.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    He doesn’t want to get the penalty minutes and be benched. Rookies are on a tight leash that way. Let’s talk in a couple years. I don’t think he’s cheap, I’d say he’s just playing at max intensity and sometimes that gets away from him.

    I have a flames bias though, so that is what it is

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      He is a boy in a man’s body….and feels he needs to report to these type of tactics to create some space. Tkachuk is not on the team to fight…max Domi learned this the hard way. He started a fight against Hathaway and ended up missing 2-3 months. A simple face wash and he doesn’t get injured. Tkachuk does need to learn how to protect himself but does not need to become s fighter.

      • dontcryWOLF88

        Dude, but then did you catch max domi shut the lights off for ryan kesler earlier in the year? Thats my favorite fight of all time due to the fact it was kesler.

        I agree though. Leave the fighting for 3rd or 4th line.

  • Brodano12

    Tkachuk and Monahan getting Roberts skating training in the offseason would be stellar. Both are players that are being held back from the ‘elite’ level due to their skating alone.

    Bennett just needs to watch a lot of tape to learn the NHL game better.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Interesting how both Monny and Tkachuk were voted to have the highest hockey IQs during their respective draft years by OHL coaches. Both think 2-3 moves ahead to compensate for average foot speed. I still believe you can teach skating and work on explosiveness but hockey IQ is God given. Bennett appears to be the opposite, great skater with strong skill but does not think the game at a high level.

  • Prototype369

    It would be nice to add another former first round pick to the list of impact rookie players. Poirier, Klimchuk, Shinkaruk, and Jankowski. I’m not expecting all of them to turn into Tkachuk, but serviceable top 9 forwards would be nice. Jankowski is likely to be a 3C, but I would like the others in there as well

    • freethe flames

      Unfortunately Poirier is trending down, Klimchuk after a solid start to the season has cooled considerably and Shinkaruk has missed a large part of the season and has been inconsistent since returning. Janko/Klimchuk/Shinkaruk have been the Heats top line of late but the Heat have fallen out of the playoff picture.

  • Pond Hockey

    He should also go to fight school in the off season to hone those skills and turn him into a complete beast!

    One or two more players like him would sure be entertaining.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Tkachuk seems to be the most well rounded of the 4 mentioned players. I really feel that an off season with a skating coach and Gary Roberts will turn him into a beast. Johnny is showing some holes in his game, and needs to work on his upper body and his shooting release. I am hoping he takes less of a school load so he can focus in the off season. However, he can probably see the finish line and wants to finish.

    Bennett seems to have the most explosiveness and could use some more thickness. I feel that players lose the extra muscle they put on in the off season, through the grind of the season.

    • jakethesnail

      I think Johnny’s release has been hampered by the fingers protector he is wearing. His shots had a lot more zing last year.

      I agree spending time with Gary Roberts would be beneficial for Matty. He is becoming the next Gary Roberts already!

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Totally agree on Johnny’s shot….he zinged a couple in the All star game where I am sure he was not wearing the protector. He just does not seem to have much power unless he has lots of time to release it… Which is not usually the case.

        If you look back at College or WJC clips you will see he had a more potent arsenal. Much more like Patrick Kane, with a decent backhand.

  • freethe flames

    Next years top rookies on the Flames should be guys from the AHL.(Janko/Klimchuk/Mangiapane/Shinkaruk upfront and Andersson/Kylington on D) As a team moves towards being a playoff team and contender they will draft higher up and those picks will likely return to the CHL for a couple of years.

    If we fall out of contention for a playoff spot then it is essential that some of the above players be given a chance at the NHL; especially as it seems the Heat have fallen out of the playoff race. Send Hamilton down and bring one of them up and play them. To do this means we need to move one of our placeholders; Versteeg/Chiasson/Bouma.