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Feisty Tkachuk ready to continue build with Battle of Alberta

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames


PENTICTON, BC -- His introduction was memorable, to say the least.

The encore puts Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk directly into the Battle of Alberta.

And Tkachuk, the No. 6 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, knows exactly how to feel heading in.

“I know there’s a rivalry,” Tkachuk said. “The Battle of Alberta. That’s going to be in the back of our heads. It’ll be in the back of their heads as well. You get drafted by this organization and the first team you want to beat is the Oilers.

“That’s what we want to do tonight.”

Tkachuk will have the chance when the Flames meet the Edmonton Oilers in each team’s second game at the Young Stars Classic (8:30 PM MT, CalgaryFlames.com, Flames app, YouTube, Facebook Live).

It’s what he helped the Flames do to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. Though Tkachuk didn’t record a point, he was the engine in a 4-1 win to kick of the exhibition tournament on a winning note.

Three shots, an even rating, and 16 minutes in penalties dotted the line beside Tkachuk’s name.

“It was definitely fun to get back in the swing of things,” Tkachuk said. “That’s what we miss from being off for so long, are games like that where they’re chippy. It’s the game I like to play. I flirt with the line. I guess I went over it a couple times.

“I like playoff-game atmospheres and those chippy games and those games where it’s low-scoring, one-goal games. I thrive in those.”

He started 7:24 into the game, catching Jets forward Brendan Lemieux -- the son of longtime NHLer Claude Lemieux -- with an elbow, and followed it up with a flurry of cross-checks to net his first four minutes.

The 18-year-old was flagged for a high-stick, which was delivered in a distinct slashing manner, at 14:46 of the second period.

His final mark was left with 5:16 in regulation, stirring it up with fellow 2016 draftee, and 6-foot-7, 228-pound defenceman, Logan Stanley that saw teammates Ryan Lomberg, Kenney Morrison, and Keegan Kanzig join Tkachuk in netting 10-minute misconducts.

“He’s got a presence on the ice,” said Stockton Heat coach Ryan Huska, who is putting Flames prospects through the paces at the tournament. “He’s a different player than I saw in practice to when he plays the game. He drags people into the game with him. He plays hard; he’s in people’s faces. When the puck’s at the net he’s always at the net.

“For me, my take with this is if you’re going to play with Matthew you have to be engaged in the game because he’s going to be around it all the time. That’s what makes him a special player and why he’s had success over his last couple of years.”

The snarl is nothing new.

Tkachuk racked up 75 minutes in penalties in 24 games as a member of the US National Team Development Program in 2014-15, and another 80 in 57 games with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

Tyler Parsons, Tkachuk’s goaltender in London, had a front-row ticket for the latter.

“He always plays like that,” said Parsons, expected to split the workload with Mason McDonald against Edmonton. “That’s why we love having him on the team.

"He’s a player that gets in your head and players don’t like to play against him. He’s also really skilled. He’s a great player, overall.”

Huska doesn’t want any other Tkachuk to show up.

Or anything different from any other player, for that matter, when the Battle of Alberta ignites in Penticton.

“With everybody it’s the same,” Huska said. “We want to see the competitive game again. We want to compete with Edmonton tonight.

“Matthew will be involved in a lot of things. That’s the way he plays. He’s going to have to continue to play that way. I thought him and his line … he pulled into scrums and stuff like that aside … did a great job of working down low in the offensive zone. I think the more they play down below the tops of the cirlces the more effective they’ll be.

“Hopefully we see more of that tonight.”

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