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2016 NHL Draft: London's Tkachuk models game after father, others

by Mike G. Morreale / Columbus Blue Jackets

RED DEER, Alberta -- London Knights left wing Matthew Tkachuk likes to model his game after a number of different NHL players.

Tkachuk's biggest influence, however, is his father, Keith Tkachuk, who scored 538 goals in 19 NHL seasons for the Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues and Atlanta Thrashers.

"We're both big bodies and we like to use our size," said Tkachuk, who is 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. "[Keith] was more of an in-your-face, down-your-throat type of player. I like to mix in a little finesse too, and I like to make plays. He was a pure goal scorer and I like to mix in a little bit of both."

Tkachuk, 18, is rated No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft.

"He definitely does [have his father in him]," London coach Dale Hunter said. "His dad scored a lot of goals; I played against him. It wasn't just scoring on the rush, his dad scored behind the net, coming out in front, playing hard in front and tipping pucks. So he's got a lot of his dad in him, that's why he's going to be a good player."

Tkachuk scored on the power play at 17:43 of the first period to give London a 2-0 lead against Rouyn-Noranda, tipping a shot from defenseman Olli Juolevi past goaltender Chase Marchand.

Tkachuk had an assist on Christian Dvorak's power-play goal at 6:20 of the third period to increase London's lead to 4-1, and scored an empty-net goal with 1:31 remaining.

"He battles through a lot," said London forward Mitchell Marner, who had four assists. "He gets the best defenders every night bearing down on him and he just keeps playing through it. He's been a great leader on this team, a guy you can really go to and rely on."

Tkachuk's offensive ability and feisty playing style draws comparisons to Anaheim Ducks center Corey Perry, who helped lead London to the 2005 Memorial Cup championship.

Tkachuk had 107 points (30 goals, 77 assists) in 57 games with London during the regular season. He had 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) in 18 playoff games for the OHL champion Knights.

"That's a great compliment," Tkachuk said. "Corey is, obviously, a great player and was an unbelievable junior player. To be put in the same sentence, I don't think that's even fair to him.

"He was unbelievable and it's cool to be compared to him. I try to model my game after guys like him and after guys like JVR (James van Riemsdyk) and Jamie Benn and those types of guys. I'm trying to be my own player, but it's cool to watch other players and try to model yourself after them."

In London's Memorial Cup opening 6-2 win against the host Red Deer Rebels, Tkachuk goaded defenseman Haydn Fleury into taking a roughing penalty, then assisted on the ensuing power-play goal to give the Knights a 1-0 lead.

"He loves getting under teams' skin and he's really good at it, but he's also a guy that can go back and put it in your net," Marner said. "He's scary on both ends of the ice and he's probably not fun to play against, but on your line, you love him."

Tkachuk has three goals and three assists in three games at the Memorial Cup and has made his share of enemies with his agitating game.

"I just think it's one of those things, I guess it's a gift being able to get under people's skin," Tkachuk said. "I know even if I don't do anything, people seem to come after me, and that's something that I guess comes with the job."

London went into the final Sunday on a 16-game winning streak. The Knights won 13 consecutive games in the OHL playoffs on their way to the league title; they eventually won the 2016 Memorial Cup over QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda.

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