FlamesNation player evaluation: Matthew Tkachuk

Even with the high bar set by being the sixth overall pick in one of the most loaded drafts in recent memory, Matthew Tkachuk has exceeded every expectation. He’s a fan favourite and potentially the Flames’ most complete player.

2017-18 season summary

Tkachuk was mostly in the same role as he was last year: 3M line, taking on the bigs, trusted with defensive zone starts, kicking ass, taking names, etcetera, etcetera. It took 50 games, but Tkachuk eventually found himself on the powerplay, where he picked up 10 goals and seven assists. He and Dougie Hamilton turned out to be a great one-two punch of slapshots and tipped pucks, making us all wonder why it took 50 games for that to happen.

Games Played Goals Assists Points TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% rel OZS% PDO
68 24 25 49 13:36 57.29% 5.46% 45.17% .975

Among forwards, Tkachuk finished first in 5v5 CF% and first in 5v5 CFrel%. This is despite having the seventh worst zone starts. Taking rates into account, he finished second (behind Michael Frolik) in CF/60 (70.07) and first in CA/60 (52.23). The CA/60 stat is for the whole team, not just the forwards.

Tkachuk finished third in team scoring, which is impressive given that the team, and his line in particular, was snakebitten when it came to scoring. An injury late in the season prevented him from hitting the 50-point mark. That’s not overly significant, but it would’ve helped close the gap between him and the Monahan-Gaudreau combo. His scoring numbers look a bit pedestrian, but Tkachuk is quite clearly one of the driving gears of the Flames. If that isn’t apparent now, it should be soon.

Overall, Tkachuk was probably the Flames’ most impactful and all-around best performer. His two-way play got better. He found an offensive touch despite a low PDO. He drew penalties, 34 at 5v5, which was second in the league to Tom Wilson. The kid just did everything. He is 20 years old, by the way.

Otherwise, the only other negatives of Tkachuk’s season were two suspensions for using his stick incorrectly. The first was against the Red Wings, when he gave Luke Witkowski a goodbye tap after a melee during a blowout game. The second was spearing against Toronto, when he gave Matt Martin a jab while on the bench. Although perhaps the punishment (especially against the Wings) was a little harsh, it’s probably not great to have three suspensions and a reputation heading forward.

Compared to last season

Like he did last year, Tkachuk led the forwards in CF% and CF% rel. Although by slightly smaller margins in the latter category (indicating that the entire team became better at possession last season), he took about a 2% jump in CF%, which is ludicrous. That was good for third across the entire NHL. Perhaps some of that is due to more offensive usage. Tkachuk’s OZS% went up about 10%, partially because the fourth line was given some more defensive responsibility, and partially because of Tkachuk’s emergence as an actual offensive force.

Another impressive development is Tkachuk’s ability to draw penalties without taking more of them. It’s a personal theory that I have no evidence of, but I think that he devoted a decent amount of effort in his rookie year finding the line (among players and refs) and figuring out how close he can come without crossing it. He has seemingly found the balance point where he can agitate (or just simply outplay) opponents enough to get them a trip to the sin bin, but remain calm enough so that he doesn’t join them.

One of the categories where Tkachuk did see a major step backwards was assists, although that has largely to do with his two linemates seeing career worst shooting percentage numbers. In a normal year, he would likely surpass those numbers.

There were few things he did wrong as a rookie, but Tkachuk somehow managed to drastically improve on his few weaknesses.

What about next season?

Given his growth from year one to year two, it’s scary to imagine where Tkachuk can go from year two to year three. It’s seemingly likely that he can break the 70-point barrier while becoming more of pain to play against.

We can only hope that Bill Peters and his eventually-to-be-named coaching staff can further develop and emphasize these skills. There’s no way that Tkachuk should be moved from the powerplay unless they somehow manage to wrangle up three better scoring wingers (they won’t). Perhaps he’ll actually see some PK time, which could boost an already stingy shorthanded unit.

Linemates will be another question. The 3M line is one of hockey’s best, but if the Flames can’t find an actual top six RW this offseason, does Tkachuk fill that void for the next season? It may be an inevitability. His two-way play is already borderline (if not, certainly) elite and the offence is starting to come around. He could be a handy internal solution to one of the organization’s biggest issues, although adding another elite player to the fold is a more palatable scenario.

Regardless, next season should be a treat, as it always is with Tkachuk. Let’s just hope they sign an extension before he puts up ridiculous numbers.

#5 – Mark Giordano #7 – TJ Brodie
#8 – Chris Stewart #10 – Kris Versteeg
#11 – Mikael Backlund #13 – Johnny Gaudreau
#15 – Tanner Glass #18 – Matt Stajan


    • Off the wall

      Even though I still think Backlund has more juice in him,
      ( sorry WW) we need to start using Byng for scoring, not shutdown purposes.

      The 3M line ends with Peter’s.
      He loves him as much as the rest of us do. There’s no way he doesn’t get a chance to show his potential (although we’ve just scratched the surface) with a better coach.

      1st line RW is his calling.
      I don’t get the argument that Gaudreau and Monahan will be in danger, due to Byng’s lovely disposition.

      I’m not sure why members say that. Frolik and Backlund were hardly physically tough?

      Imagine Byng with his IQ, sniping all Gaudreau’s magic passes. Both Monahan and Byng will feast off of him!

      • Kevin R

        Actually, I wouldnt call Backlund & Frolik plugs, so I agree Walter may be a little harsh from that angle, but Backlund & Frolik are perfect 3rd line shutdown forward pairing. You will get 30-40 points from them, whoever you put on that left wing. That improves the scoring of bottom 6 immensely. Tkachuk is a top 6 forward bar none.
        We need a bonafide top 6 centre to pair with him. That should be Tre’s sole job this summer. Then we have the likes of Bennett & Ferland to slot in that top 6 to fill the lines. So I agree with Walt, no more 3M.

        • rusty_shakleforde

          Yup exactly. Great first line this way, great third line shutdown. Now just need a good scoring second line! And I think that is what we’ve been missing.

        • Boundsy

          Sam Bennett would pair great with Tkchuck. Ferland slides in nicely where Tkchuck was with Backlund and Frolik. Leaves 2 top 6 RW spots. Janko could take one, Foo could, but this is where a trade would be beneficial and easier to acquire RW than a center. Give Bennett a chance especially playing with a stud like Tkchuck.

          • freethe flames

            In Tkachuk’s rookie year he started with Bennett and Brouwer and it was horrible and GG moved Tkachuk to play with Backs; so I’m not sure there is any evidence that Tk and Bennett would be a good fit. Personally I think Janko is a better fit b/C he has a better hockey IQ IMO than Bennett.

    • buts

      Backlund and Frolik are 3rd line players at best. MT needs a Center and winger that compliment his style, if BT can get and top Center and winger to give us a 1a/1b top 2 lines we will become contenders. We have the d depth to trade for it….. I’m crossing my fingers.

  • redwhiteblack

    He is a guy who will excel when the compete level goes up during playoffs. He is a player you win with. Other than Gio, a healthy Ferland and at times Bennett (who has not shown skill to match), I don’t see that kind of compete in our other players. Hoping Peters can motivate the rest. As WW said Chucky does it regardless of the coach. That’s generational elite. We need more of that kind of dedication on every line to win.

  • Jobu

    As awesome as he is you cannot put him on the top line. Do you really want Johnny Hockey and Sean Monahan involved on all of those front of the net scrums against the leagues top defensive units? Put him with a Bennett, a Janowski or a Dube however, now THAT makes more sense.

  • Stu Gotz

    Agree with a few here suggesting this kid gets an ‘A’ as early s next season. Also for those that think Flames are not making moves to improve goaltending I would suggest they will. 2 UFA’s that interest me….get Carter Hutton signed and Jay Beagle (strong faceoff guy)……

  • freethe flames

    I’m a big fan of moving Tkachuk up but I am not convinced that making a super line is in the best interest of this team, having two very good offensive lines is more appealing to me. Until BT adds a top 6 forward I would go with the Johnny/Monny/Ferland line, Tkachuk/Janko and here is were I get creative; lets see if Phillips can be the straw stirring that line. On the other end move Tkachuk to the RW and give either Sam or Mangiapane a look there. The third line could be (Bennett/Mangiapane/Dube)/Backs/Frolik and could still score 40+ goals. I mentioned a while a go that I think the Flames will upgrade the 4th line center and the way Beagle is playing for the Caps he looks ideal 55%+ face off guy, good defensively, plays on the PK, sounds like a BP kind of 4th liner.

    • oilcanboyd

      I agree…a super line would kill the team’s objective (if it isn’t it should be) of having 4 strong lines. Peters says he believes in pairs which would a winger to move up and down the lineup.
      I would keep Byng on the Backs and Frolik line and use Byng on the first power play unit with Johnny and Mony. I think that Backs and Frolik will have a comeback year.\,with the help of Byng of course. Peters could also alternate Fearland and Byng as game situations dictate.

  • freethe flames

    As we wait the end IIHF world championship so that the Flames can get BP here and start hiring his staff all we can do is speculate. Many of have our own visions of what needs to be done and that is kind of fun but I really wonder what the plan is. There is no doubt that this team needs more talent up front but it also needs it’s bottom line to be both more talented and at the same time a bit grittier. I would like to see a little more of the old Ferland (the one we fell in love with) on a nightly basis.

    • freethe flames

      if RoR is available what would you be willing to trade for him? I believe the cost would be Brodie + a significant prospect or two. While RoR would significantly improve our top 6 he still does not address the glaring hole on the RW.

      • Fat Tony

        I would like this move. RoR would be a good addition and Chucky would be great on his wing.
        We could sign Tavares and have Chucky play with him, trade Brodie plus whatever else for a legit right winger and have the most complete top 6 this organization has seen in years.

  • Franko J

    I wondering how seriously he was concussed at the end of the year and how it might effect him going forward. Otherwise it was clearly evident with him out of the lineup the team had no heart, soul, personality or drive.
    I sure hope he continues this off season to keep developing his skating.

    • freethe flames

      It must have been bad enough that they did not let him go to the IIHF world championships. A kid with his compete level would have been invited if healthy. (would have been a great place to experiment with him and Johnny on the wings together)

  • Lazarus

    Everyone knows what Matt is and brings to the team.
    Having said that, calling him Byng is cringeworthy. Why stop there, why not add Lady to it or Chandler. Seriously, be better.
    Its Chucky if anything