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Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

FlamesNation player evaluation: Matthew Tkachuk

Three years ago, the Flames stood at a crossroads. After a surprise playoff appearance, the Flames suffered through a hangover (sometimes literally) in the 2015-16 season. Their goaltending fell apart, the coach got fired, and everybody who emerged out of thin air to help the team overachieve disappeared just as quickly. Just as the team looked to be taking steps out of the rebuilding era, they tumbled back down into the draft lottery.

Their key asset was the sixth overall pick. In a draft that appeared to have three standouts in Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi, the Flames had a consolation prize in the sixth overall pick and plenty of questions surrounding it. Do they trade it for a goalie? Do they move up? Do they go defender or forward? Do they make a hockey trade? Nylander, Tkachuk, or Dubois? It was imperative to do the right thing with the pick, or else it could be a few more years wandering the desert.

Three years later, the Flames have one of the crown jewels from that draft in Matthew Tkachuk. By standing pat, thanks in part to a few draft gaffes, the Flames found themselves with a superstar that has helped push the team to the next level.

2018-19 season summary

Ho hum, just his normal dominant self.

Games played Goals Assists Points TOI/gp 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% rel OZS% PDO
80 34 43 77 17:35 56.95% 4.49 55.27% 0.996

Seriously though, that’s underselling him a bit. Tkachuk set new highs in every scoring category, both at 5v5 and on the powerplay. For the third consecutive year, he lead the forwards in 5v5 CF% and 5v5 CF% rel. Rates wise, he finished first in CF/60 and third in CA/60, behind Elias Lindholm and Derek Ryan. That is also standard fare for Tkachuk’s career thus far.

He primarily spent the season with the 3M line, although occasionally saw a new RW from time to time. Him and Mikael Backlund saw Michael Frolik, Austin Czarnik, James Neal, and Sam Bennett on their line at various points of the season, although Frolik was the most frequent RW by a large margin. The 3M line was, once again, one of the Flames’ most effective 5v5 units.

Unlike previous seasons, Tkachuk did move away from Backlund and Frolik. When Bill Peters’ blender broke out, Tkachuk often got bumped up to play RW with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, which was pretty good in bursts, but never got a long enough look to see what they could do with more ice time. There was also a brief stint where Tkachuk started with Mark Jankowski and Sam Bennett, though that proved fruitless.

Tkachuk also saw heavy powerplay time for the first time this season, occupying a permanent spot on the first unit. He finished the season second on the Flames in PP goalscoring, and third in total PP points.

Compared to last season

Well besides getting much, much better, not much changed for Tkachuk. He was with Mikael Backlund facing off against other teams’ best units, consistently seeing second line minutes.

What changed was the usage. Tkachuk and the rest of the 3M line saw more offensive zone starts, and Tkachuk also saw heavy usage as a net-front presence on the PP1. Those were both major differences from last season, where the 3M line was pretty much only tasked with defensive starts and Tkachuk only played on the powerplay two-thirds of the way into the season.

What about next season?

Well, the first hurdle to clear is the looming contract extension. Tkachuk is going to get paid, likely enough to become the highest paid on the roster. With the Flames being pretty close to the cap ceiling, it’s going to be a long summer of figuring out how to make it all work.

But once that stress passes, it’s nothing but optimism for Tkachuk’s future. At the ripe young age of 21, Tkachuk already has made a reputation as one of the league’s biggest nuisances, but will now also have the added title of being one of the NHL’s best offensive players.

Given how he’s grown from season to season, it’s possible that he gets even better. There’s rarely been an area where Tkachuk has struggled, so it’s likely he is handed tougher challenges next year. Peters has alluded to using him as the first line RW, which might be something that we see more often next season given how the first line fizzled out towards the end of the year. More offensive exposure for one of the Flames’ most impactful player? Yes please.

2018-19 player evaluations

#4 Rasmus Andersson | #5 Mark Giordano | #7 TJ Brodie | #8 Juuso Valimaki | #10 Derek Ryan | #11 Mikael Backlund | #13 Johnny Gaudreau | #18 James Neal

  • The GREAT WW

    A quick shout out to the Oilers and Canucks who both picked ahead of us and both picked players that will never be regular NHL players…….

    Thankies!!!!!!!

    WW

    • HOCKEY83

      I don’t think the oilers have anything to do with it. Columbus and the canucks are the ones to thank. If the Flames were picking 4th they would have taken Puljujarvi over tkachuk as well.

  • Puck Head

    Tkachuk knows how to get the puck in the net and isn’t afraid of playing in the dirty areas. We could use a few more like him. At the end of the day he will get paid for his ability to score. I’ll take him over a good skater any day who has difficulty finding the twine (Lazar, Czarnik…).

  • Jimmyhaggis

    In this game, speed, size and skill are required to be a special player. Tkachuk has size, but his speed, we’ll he has no speed, skill, deflections. For the Flames to pay him him in the 7 to 8 million per, he has to to improve his speed and skill.
    I would like to see a bridge contract, 2 to 3 years, and then consider a long term contract.

  • Dougiefred

    My thing with Tkachuk is the fact he is a painfully slow skater, at some point this is going to be a big issue. Just like Neal if you can’t get there nothing else matters.

    • HOCKEY83

      I know it’s horrible. So slow…imagine if he was fast maybe he could be better than a point a game and get more than 34 goals…oh well…here’s hoping he’s not as useless next season as he was this season

        • HOCKEY83

          At some point anything will become an issue if it becomes an issue….duh! He’s a young guy who will grow, get stronger, get mentally more mature, hone his skills. At 20 years old last season he got 34 goals and was basically just a hair off a point a game…He will be better than this. To try and diminish what he’s done at his young age in hopes to prove to a bunch of hockey bloggers that he’s not worth what every other player of his calibre is worth and should get less money because of it is just silly talk. Certain guys on the team who are much older and have had the time to hone their skills may make him look a little slower but he’ll be making those same players look useless in a couple of years. I think he’d be a steal at 7 mil long term. He’ll be here longer than Johnny or Monny will.

  • Franko J

    Besides the obvious with his skating, Tkachuk has improve his conditioning.
    Over the past few seasons he has seemed to run out of gas and it showed in the playoffs.
    Look what happened when Andersson took his off season conditioning program seriously. Time for him and some other Flames take their off season programs to another level.

  • The GREAT WW

    BYNG!!!!!!!

    I’m glad his scoring slowed down a bit towards the end of the season otherwise his contract would be many millions more.

    One word: “F-ing generational”…..!!!!!

    WW

    • Luter 1

      I respect your admiration for Byng but he is not generational. His skating is the biggest issue and was quite disappointed he was not willing to get his nose dirty in the playoffs. Not our next captain with his antics. Good solid generational player when it comes to deflections only.

      • CowboyBob

        No way he is generational. He is such a bad skater, that’s needs to improve drastically or he simply will not be a difference maker. Not even joking, he needs to find Bo Horvat’s skating coach today. I’ve said it before, if I’m BT the first thing I do at the first meeting with MT and his agent is play a 3 minute highlight of reel of Nathan MacKinnon against the Flames in the first round and than say. “He makes $6 million a year, how could I possible pay you the same or more”.

  • freethe flames

    He will become the highest paid Flame this off season. Saying that he has flaws in his game; his skating needs to improve, he can’t disappear for a number of games at a time(don’t blame his line mates), and he needs to perform in the play offs.

    Despite my saying don’t blame his line mates it is time to move him away from Backs and to better utilize his skills. I would begin by having him play with Lindholm at center. Unless the Flames add another RHS I see three guys who could be tried on the RHS with Lindy and Tkachuk; no real preference but I will give my reasoning. 1. Dube he has played RW in the AHL and would help on faceoffs as he is a center; his speed could help this line. 2. Janko; again help on the dot and he and Lindy have shown good chemistry on the PK what is not to say they would not have the same thing 5 on 5. 3. Mangiapane; his game grew a lot last year and with speed and offensive instinct I think he would be a good fit; he’s also not afraid to be engaged. None of these guys are the perfect RW as none of them are RHS but I would prefer these experiments over Neal or Czarnik.

    • Hockeysense9393

      I kind of understand the “disappear” at times comment, but people need to understand something about this guy. 21 years old… he still hasn’t even developed fully yet and is still working on his skating.

      21 years old…

      • freethe flames

        No one has forgotten that he is 21; but he has just finished his 3rd year in the NHL. There are 2 types of ages to think about; the classic chronological age where full maturity is @25 and then there is hockey experience. Here’s hoping that he and another couple of young guys continue their journey to NHL maturity.

  • Getpucksdeep

    I’d say “great article” except Christian neglected the obvious elephant in the room. The few posts so far a couple
    (expect blinded fanboy WW…generational LOL) have mentioned his skating. IF he could skate and he’s not only slow but he isn’t very fancy either, then maybe “generational”. 7.5 to max 8 mill over 6-8 years.

      • canadian1967

        Generational, to me means “Holy Crap, everything I know, just changed after seeing this player!”
        McDavid
        Crosby/Ovechkin
        Lemieux
        Gretzky
        Tretiak/Fetisov
        Orr
        Richard
        Howe

        For me, if you’re not on that list, then you’re just really really great.

        • HOCKEY83

          I think Malkin needs to be on your list. He’s every bit as skilled and talented in everyway crosby and ovechkin are. The 2 best points per game player over the last 15 years is crosby and Malkin and Malkin is just a hair behind crosby

          • CowboyBob

            Ahh, no. Malkin looks better because he played behind Crosby. Crosby dealt with the top checkers and best d pairing every game. As a result Malkin got to play against second tier players his entire career. Malkin is good, but he should thank his lucky stars he played with Crosby.

        • Getpucksdeep

          Good list!!! Good to see some else’s all time best team would have Orr and Tretiak. I might or might not add Lidstrom to that list and maybe Hasek as well. But’s its a darn short list. You may or may not agree but I think Jagr has to be on that list too.

          • HOCKEY83

            I got to agree with you on hasek…No one beats his stats other than wins. Lidstrom was unbelievable but I’d put probably put 4 or 5 Dmen ahead of him and fully agree Jagr absolutely has to be on that list. He screwed his own points per game stats by playing about 7 seasons too long but it did solidify him forever as second highest point getter in history.

    • Off the wall

      I’m going to finally reply without asking you if you need a hug Raffy.

      The funny part of saying Tkachuk is overrated, is that he puts in extra time to hone his skills. The young man loves hockey.

      I remember earlier this year, I quoted a client on pruning their massive apple trees. Of course they accepted, because I way under- quoted the job. It wasn’t until I climbed up in the canopy, that I realized I had double the amount of time I had estimated to do the job properly. I could have chose to either,
      1. Recind the quote
      2. Suck it up and honour my agreement

      Being that I have a reputation to uphold, #1 wasn’t even in my mind. So I laboured throughout the next few days, knowing full-well I was working for half of my normal earnings. I wasn’t going to take any shortcuts, because I’m dedicated to my work. I love it. Just like Tkachuk loves his.

      The client noticed how much time I spent on the job, and even offered to pay me more. He couldn’t believe I turned him down. Not because I didn’t want more money, because that’s silly, but due to my contract I made with him. I wasn’t breaking it.

      After I was finished, the fellow gave me my money and tipped me very well. I seldom get tips in my business. It’s the nature of my occupation.

      Tkachuk puts in the time to make himself better. No one tips 50 pucks after PRACTICE just because they have nothing better to do. Kinda interesting that he’s used on the first PP, don’t you think? It’s because Peters’ recognizes he does the extras to make himself valuable to the team. And as Tiberi has pointed out- he’s getting better at every category. I honestly don’t know how you can consider Tkachuk overrated.

      Ironically, the client who I worked for, appreciated my work ethic so much that he hired my son-in- law for his business.

      I guess I’m overrated too…

      • fretsey

        Cool story bro.

        Lots of players stay after practice to work on their skills,some do it to keep their jobs and some do it just for the fun of it or to stay sharp..face-offs,tips etc. Chucky is hardly the first to stay and tip 50 pucks after a practice and shouldn’t be put on a pedestal for it.
        Chucky is a good player but hardly a “generational or superstar” player at this time.

        Bridge Deal

      • calgaryfan

        My question is how does Matthew have a father in the NHL, and gets through minor hockey and junior without improving his skating? Is it a case of practicing things you are good at and not the stuff you are not so good at?

      • FlamesFanFromMI

        Overrated!!!!
        Judging by the way people are replying these days we should trade you with Johnny hockey, Moni, Geo and Byng. And get guys with size who can’t skate to save their lives. I bet you remembered when Sutter wanted to go big and how we traded our future for those big guys and how it turned out.
        You sir are overrated and on the trading block we will trade you to Mango section from apples.

      • PlayitagainSam

        You are overrated and so is Tkachuk. You also both disappear in the playoffs.
        The times Tkachuk has been in the NHL playoffs he has been a no show and that’s what counts.

  • Raffydog

    Just another Houdini that cant handle the playoffs. The Flames need to rid themselves of these types of players, not sign them to ridiculous albatross contracts. The roster is full of players that disappear in the playoffs and Tkachump is no exception. Cant skate, can’t hit, and has little to no talent. I cringe just thinking of the money this fool is going to get, only to disappear when it matters most.

  • SouthernFlame

    I gotta feeling its gonna be him and Rittich taking us deep next year. Im willing to bet he gets in the 90 point range next year. Raffydog is gonna be so embarrassed and upset he will shlt the bed.

      • HOCKEY83

        25 of his goal and 55 of his points were even strentgh points…Don’t think he’s having problems with the line mates he’s been skating with. Doubtful that Frolic will still be a flame next season so he probably will have a little more skill to play with on his line. With scoring being up as it has over the last 2 seasons i think there’s a very good chance he could get 80 – 90 points barring any injuries.

  • PlayitagainSam

    He is going to get paid for what he has done in the regular season. 6-7 million.
    Too bad because the times he has been in the playoffs he did absolutely nothing when things got real.

    • Getpucksdeep

      I’d take issue with that. You may be right and his skating MAY improve. If stopped falling down so easily though I know he’s in the thick of it he still ends up on the ice a lot. Some guys like Kjillington, enter the league as elite skaters and can be taught to play. Byng will never be fast. Scotty Bowman actually said it. He said “I can always teach a skater to play but I can’t always teach a player to skate.” Chucky’s intangibles, his tip-in ability, passing smarts and vision are obviously worth a ton.

  • Garry T

    I have real issues with giving Tkachuk a large contract for a prolonged period this year. He can play but he.’s not a six million or 6+ player. I am for a 3 yr. bridge contract at $4.5 mil per on a take it or sit basis. He is restricted and that leaves the Flames some options to shore up other lines via trade. A big contract for Tkachuk is nuts. You could get a lot for him in a trade and a bidding war for players and multiple high picks could result. I did not like his playoff results or antics. He disappeared and that is unforgivable.

    • HOCKEY83

      You said it yourself ” you can get a lot for him in a trade” why? because he is great. Why give up something great for just the hopes to get something great? Doesn’t make sense.

    • The Red Knight

      He was second in team playoff scoring, in his second playoffs at 21 . Bennett was the leader with 4 points and TKACHUK with 3 , how is TKACHUK the one who disappeared, Colorado made the entire team look slow , I’d say Monahan needs to step up if anyone.

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    I am confused after reading the comments. I thought all the wanna be GMs wanted to trade Joni, Moni and get bigger. Byng is bigger and have skill , you need him to skate too? So we are going bigger faster and younger? Wait, isn’t this all 31 teams wanted to do?
    OTW help me out please.