Pals, the Calgary Flames have made a few first-round selections in their day that just didn’t pan out. But recently, drafting has gotten better. And while he’s recently left the organization and there may be some hurt feelings regarding his departure, let’s make one thing clear: Matthew Tkachuk was a really good Flame.
He’s #27 on our countdown.
Player, 2016-22
The eldest son of longtime NHLer Keith Tkachuk, Matthew was born in the Phoenix area but raised in the St. Louis area. He came up through local minor hockey, played his 17-year-old year with the US National Development Program, then jumped to the Ontario Hockey League to play his draft year with the powerhouse London Knights.
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That proved to be a smart move, as London went on a tear, winning the OHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup. Tkachuk ended up being selected sixth overall by the Flames in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Just a couple months before his 19th birthday, Tkachuk came to his first NHL training camp and really impressed… to the point where he made the team. Then he began playing and aside from a few rough spots, he was really, really good right away. He found a niche alongside Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik on the “3M” Line, used by the coaching staff as a tough minutes shutdown line.
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In the early years, Tkachuk got into trouble from time to time due to his exuberance and physicality. He infamously threw a back elbow into Drew Doughty’s face that got him suspended during his rookie year. The following season he was suspended twice, but after that point he largely kept his nose clean and figured out how to be a complete pain in the ass to play against while staying out of the penalty box himself.
Tkachuk stayed with Backlund and Frolik for most of his first three seasons, then moved onto a line with Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane for most of 2019-20, then rotated around a bit in 2020-21 before landing on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm following Darryl Sutter’s arrival midway through that season.
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Tkachuk’s last season with the Flames was his best one, especially statistically. He scored 40 goals. He surpassed the 100 point mark. He was voted to the NHL’s second all-star team and also received votes for the Hart and Selke Trophies. Following the season, as an unsigned restricted free agent, he was traded to Florida for a massive haul of assets which included Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar.
Tkachuk wasn’t a perfect player, but he was alternate captain for four seasons, played a few different very important roles for the club, and helped shape the identity of the Flames while he was part of the team.
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