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Signing excites, focuses first rounder Tkachuk

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Matthew Tkachuk certainly didn’t wait long.

Brad Treliving either, for that matter.

Both sides wasted little time in signing the sixth pick of the 2016 NHL Draft to a three-year, entry-level contract on Thursday.

“When we look at Matthew ... this in an inevitability whether it’s today, tomorrow or a month from now,” said Treliving, the Calgary Flames GM. “We talked after we drafted him and our plan was to get him signed sooner rather than later. His plan is put in place now for the summer.

“Now he’ll get a little chance to take a deep breath here, get back into Toronto, pick back up with that. But he can exhale. He hasn’t had much of that in the last little bit. It’s always good to get out of the way.

“It’s a part of the process for us. We think he’s going to be a real good player. He needs a lot of work, like they all do, and he’ll put the work in in the summer and we’ll go from there. The good thing about Matthew is he understands. This is not the finish line by any stretch. This is just the starting point. But to get him signed, that’s a good thing.

“Onward and upward.”

The Flames drafted Tkachuk, the son of United States Hockey Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk, two weeks ago.

It accomplishes one goal for Tkachuk.

And ignites another.

"It's definitely something that I've been looking forward to my whole entire life," said Tkachuk, who will return to workouts with former NHLer Gary Roberts next week. "Just to sign your first NHL contract, it's unbelievable. It's so crazy it's happening so fast now. It's a good step, and a step in the right direction. It's a step forward.

“Now I focus on training camp."

The signing, which comes following his final on-ice session at Flames development camp, caps a hectic couple of months for the 18-year-old.

After winning a J. Ross Robertson Cup as Ontario Hockey League champions with the London Knights in April, Tkachuk scored the game-winning goal in overtime to pace his club to a Memorial Cup title in Red Deer in May.

From there, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound left wing attended the NHL Scouting Combine, and was drafted by the Flames in June.

Thursday’s signing completes the whirlwind.

And has Tkachuk looking forward.

“It makes you want to work that much harder because it’s no guarantee unless you make the NHL and for guys that play in the NHL, they’re not worried about contracts or anything,” Tkachuk said. “They do it for the love of the game. I’m the same way. All the contract stuff, it comes with it.

“You kind of have flashbacks, and fast-forwards to what your career could be in Calgary. Signing your first contract makes you want to play in front of the C of Red and try to bring a championship to Calgary.”

There’s a lot of work in between.

Treliving senses that Tkachuk is aware.

“He’s a really mature young guy,” Treliving said. “He’s been around the game. Nothing phases him. He gets it. He just gets it. We’ve had some young guys that have signed contracts before … he’s obviously excited but he looked at me and said ‘real work starts.’ He gets it. He’s an 18-year-old kid, but he understands it.

“He’s got a real burning passion to be real good. We had a pretty good sense of him, but being around him all week just confirmed what we already knew.”

The signing confirmed another fact for Treliving.

Tkachuk is going to do everything he can to force his new boss to keep him come September.

But there's no rush.

"He understands it," Treliving said. "You’ve got to put the work in to get the results. All of it. He’s been around it. Having said that, this is his first step through all that. But he’s been in an NHL room since he could walk. He’s a hockey junkie. This is what he thinks about and does and dreams about. I find with him the stage or the bright lights aren’t too bright for him.

"He understands. Just because you’re picked at a certain spot or just because you’ve done certain things to this point doesn’t guarantee anything. There’s a long road ahead of him. He understands it and is prepared to put the work in.”

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