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SOPHOMORE SENSATION

Tkachuk's game-winning pass to Giordano in victory over Pens highlights solid start to season for Mr. Do-It-All

by ARI YANOVER @NHLFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The scariest thing about Matthew Tkachuk isn't his scoring prowess. 

And it isn't his physicality, or his stellar defensive play, or the fact he's a shots and Corsi leader on the club, or his agitating style that has led him to draw more penalties than anyone else since entering the league. 

No, it's that he does ALL of those things - and he's still a teenager.

When once it wasn't certain whether Tkachuk would make the Flames roster straight out of the draft or play another year of junior, in hindsight it's laughable to think it was ever a question.

He hasn't even played 100 games yet - he sits at 89 after helping the Flames defeat the Penguins 2-1 in overtime on Thursday - but he's already made his mark on the league.

Video: Tkachuk breaks down his pass to Giordano for the win

Tkachuk is off to a great start this season, with three goals and nine points over 13 games - third on the Flames in scoring. He has a 57.69% CF at 5v5 - second on the Flames, behind only Jaromir Jagr, who is stuck at just five games played - according to Natural Stat Trick.

He's done it with a 39.46% offensive-zone start ratio, sixth lowest on his team.

In only the second overtime shift of his career on Thursday night, Tkachuk stared down Sidney Crosby, took the puck from him, gained the zone with some nifty play and then fed it to Mark Giordano, who scored the game-winner.

With 57 points over his 89 NHL starts, Tkachuk is the third highest scorer of the 2016 NHL draft class, behind just first- and second-overall picks, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. Matthews won the Calder Trophy last season and Laine was a finalist. Tkachuk wasn't.

But Tkachuk played far from the typical rookie season.

It's impossible to deny Matthews' and Laine's scoring prowess. Giving credit where credit is due, it's important to note they were also put in position to score, and score often.

Matthews had 63.14% offensive-zone starts, while Laine had 54.94%. 

Tkachuk? As a rookie, he only started 35.02% of his shifts in the offensive zone. As part of the 3M Line with Mikael Backlund and Micheal Frolik, the trio became the top defensive unit for the Flames and often took the draws in their zone, matched up against the opposing squads top forwards.

So while Tkachuk scored about 20 fewer points than his counterparts, he tended to play a more well-rounded game with tough defensive responsibilities.

Matthews finished his rookie year with a 51.45% CF, and Laine 47.66%. Tkachuk finished at an impressive 55.98% CF.

And he is showing no signs of the dreaded sophomore slump this season.

If anything, he's getting better. He's still getting the toughest assignments on the Flames, and his advanced numbers are still among the very best on the team. And now, he's developing into one of their top scorers.

It's scary to think of just what Tkachuk's ceiling actually is.

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