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IN HIS DNA

Tkachuk off to a torrid scoring pace this season as he continues to develop his all-around game

by TY PILSON @typilson / calgaryflames.com

LOS ANGELES - It's kind of hard to imagine Matthew Tkachuk flying under the radar.

His skill - combined with the way he plays the game, all-out all the time - has firmly entrenched him as one of the game's brightest young stars.

And in our town, a veritable no-doubt-about-it fan favourite.

But, nonetheless, on a team chalk full of storylines to start the season, he's largely gone about his business without the spotlight on his impressive overall exploits to this point.

After scoring in the Flames 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday night, he now sits tied with Johnny Gaudreau for the team lead in points at 19, and tied with Michael Frolik with seven goals, one behind Sean Monahan and two behind newcomer Elias Lindholm.

Those 19 ticks also have him sitting tied for seventh in league scoring.

However, it's gotten a little lost amid the coverage of some of his teammates. 

A lot has been written and said about Lindholm's scoring prowess since coming to Calgary in a big off-season trade.

Frolik's run of late has also gotten press.

Ditto with the impressive start by Monahan after his bevy of off-season surgeries to fix a handful of ailments that hampered him last year.

Then there's been the play of captain Mark Giordano, who's fifth in scoring league-wide among blueliners, averaging a point per game to start the campaign.

And of course, there's Johnny, the offensive stick that mixes the drink for the Flames - constantly amazing and mesmerizing with his wizardry.

Which brings us back to the whole 'kinda-under-the-radar' start for the 20-year-old Tkachuk, on pace to significantly improve on the career best 49 points he put up in 68 games during an injury-shortened second NHL season last year.

"He's been terrific and he's been productive," agreed GM Brad Treliving. "His goals have been big goals. The three that come to mind is that one against Chicago the other night. I mean, it's a big difference being down one or being down two (going into the third period). He gets that one at the end of the period to give us a chance going into the third. Then, obviously, the two 6-on-5 goals - two tips, Washington and Buffalo. Huge goals. Which is not surprising. The bigger the moment, the more dialled in he is."

Video: CGY@BUF: Tkachuk ties it up late in the 3rd

Having one of the most deft touches in front of the net when he it comes to the semi-lost art of tipping pucks in close, and not afraid to battle in the hard areas to get goals, Treliving said folks can often overlook Tkachuk's most important trait. 

"I say it time and time again, what people don't give him enough credit for is just how smart of a player he is," he says. "His hockey IQ is elite. He thinks it so well. Those players that think it so well, when they get around other players that think it so well, you can produce. 

"It's a hard league to score in, we know that, but he's smart, he's courageous, he goes to where you need to score goals and he has skill.

So he's certainly capable of putting up numbers."

Video: CHI@CGY: Tkachuk picks the corner on Crawford

And, perhaps it begs reminding again, he's just 20 years old.

In just his third NHL season, granted an incredible accomplishment already for someone as young as he is.

"He's more mature, he's been around the game," said Treliving, who added his dad's NHL lineage and family's dedication to the game has fused it 'in his DNA.'

"It's his third year but in dog years, it's his seventh. He's just been dialled into this sport for so long and been around the game. He knows how to act, when to talk, when not to talk. But he's learning as he goes, too. Taking on a leadership role is also learning that you're relied on to help others. That's a step for him."

Because while it deserves lauding, not to be overlooked amid his torrid points production so far is his all-around game.

Tkachuk was given an alternate captain's A which he shares with Mikael Backlund this season, cementing him in an important role among the team's leadership group.

"You like the production and obviously that's important," said Treliving. "But you see his growth every day. His growth as a leader, his growth when it comes to taking on more responsibility. The thing we keep pushing is becoming that driver in practice, becoming that driver in all sorts of situations. And it's just another step for me. He's a year older and we rely on him a lot and he's a real good player so good to see the start he's off to."
 

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