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All eyes on Tkachuk as Flames hit the ice at development camp

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

I want to show where I’ve come as a player and how much I’m willing to buy into the fact that I want to play soon and just make sure I’m ready.Matthew Tkachuk

CALGARY, AB -- He’s just one of 37 players set to take to the ice at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre on Tuesday morning as part of Calgary Flames development camp.

But none are going to garner the eyes that Matthew Tkachuk will.

He won’t be hard to find.

Look for No. 19.

“They asked me to pick one of these numbers,” said 18-year-old, fresh from going through the rigors of Monday’s fitness testing.

“I narrowed it down to two numbers. I asked my family which number they liked more. I really had nothing to do with it. It was more of a family vote.

“I don’t know. It’s two numbers that I thought would look good in the future, or whatever. Not much goes into it. It’s just a number.”

Reading between the lines says otherwise.

Excusing goaltenders Tyler Parsons (1), David Rittich (32) and Jon Gillies (36), no skater in camp outside of Tkachuk has a number below 47.

Tkachuk, simply put, has an NHL-ready number.

But does he have an NHL-ready game?

“I want to show where I’ve come as a player and how much I’m willing to buy into the fact that I want to play soon and just make sure I’m ready,” Tkachuk said.

“I don’t let pressure affect me and I’ve obviously had pressure my whole life. It’s how you deal with it. I feel like I’ve dealt with the pressure really well and I want to continue to deal with it because it’s not about what everyone else says. It’s about what I do and what my mind is set on and what I want to accomplish.”

Pressure like playing in the Memorial Cup final, where he scored the overtime, game-winning goal to lift the London Knights to their second title in franchise history.

Pressure like being a top prospect in the 2016 NHL Draft, where he was selected sixth overall.

Pressure like following in the footsteps of an NHL father, whose his father Keith scored 538 goals and 1065 points in 1201 career NHL games.

Pressure like being the next wave in Calgary.

“First, I was surprised he was there. Everybody was talking about him going maybe before that,” started Flames assistant general manager Craig Conroy.

“When you talk about sandpaper, great around the net, and a proven winner … that’s the one thing … everybody says, well, he got to play with all these other guys. It’s hard to play with good players. Not everybody can play with good players. He’s a great compliment … if you want to call him that. A lot of nights he does a lot of dirty work in front of the net, in the corners, to free up space for other guys.

“To have a guy like that … we have a lot of guys with skill but we don’t have a Tkachuk-like guy on our team right now.”

No pressure, right?

“I like thinking about it. It’s my dream to play in the NHL,” Tkachuk said.

“I just want to make it happen.”

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