CALGARY, AB -- Matthew Tkachuk hasn't had time to bask in his 2016 NHL Draft experience. He's too focused on moving toward his next goal.
"It's to make an impact and try to make the Calgary Flames," said Tkachuk, the sixth pick of the draft who signed a three-year, entry-level contract Thursday. "It's everybody's goal, to try to turn some heads and make themselves known around the organization, the management, the coaching staff, and try to give yourself the best shot at making the team."
Tkachuk knows it won't be easy, but he's used to achieving his goals.
He scored 30 goals in 57 regular season games with London of the Ontario Hockey League last season, and 20 in 18 playoff games to help the Knights win the OHL championship. The 18-year-old then had five goals in four games, including the overtime winner to help London win the Memorial Cup.
Tkachuk knows those milestones won't help him come September.
"They're not penciling anybody in," he said. "They don't care if you're 18 years old, 25, or whatever. You have to prove yourself. I obviously have had to prove myself my whole career. The NHL is a whole different level. Proving myself in training camp is all that's on my mind right now … just playing to my strengths and making the players around me better is important because I know the NHL, and especially the Calgary Flames, is full of great players and they're going to make me better. It's my job to do the same for them.
"It's making sure I'm healthy and making sure that I'm right at the peak come training camp."
Even then, the odds might be stacked against the 6-foot-2, 200-pound left wing, who will spend the remainder of his summer training with former NHL forward Gary Roberts.
Flames general manager Brad Treliving has said over and over, even prior to drafting Tkachuk, that there's no expectation for their latest first round pick to be on the team to start the season.
"I know where his mindset is as all those young guys are," Treliving said. "They want to come in and make it as quick as they can, but that's certainly not our mindset. He's going to put in the work this summer. He'll train. His focus this summer is going to be continuing to get stronger and quicker. He'll be doing power skating and all those types of things set up in the summer.
"But you can't rush it. Mother Nature will take its course over time. He'll put in a lot of work over summer. We'll see where he is in September. I think I've been clear. We're in no fast track to push these guys forward. I think he'll be ready to be in the best shape he can be in and we'll see where his camp goes."
The signs are encouraging for Tkachuk.
He was given an NHL-ready No. 19 to wear at development camp. Goalies withstanding, no other skater was given a number under 47.
And a beaming review from assistant general manager Craig Conroy, who watched Tkachuk up close at the Memorial Cup in Red Deer, is reason for the son of former NHL player and United States Hockey Hall of Fame member Keith Tkachuk to be optimistic as well.
"When you talk about sandpaper, great around the net, and a proven winner … he's a great complement … if you want to call him that," Conroy said. "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."
Not yet, anyway. And Tkachuk said the suggestion was flattering.
"That's a great compliment, and I think it's pretty true in the fact that not a lot of guys provide those different looks as a player that I do, in the way you can be competitive and play down low but also have soft hands, make plays and be able to finish," he said. "I think that's a unique skill set that only a few guys I've seen are able to have.
"With the skill set and all the strengths … the weaknesses also, it's fine tuning those and making sure those weaknesses get a lot better. That's what I'm focusing on."
That, and putting himself in the position to play in the NHL sooner rather than later.
"You want to show you're deserving with everything you've gotten so far, but you also want to try to impress them," Tkachuk said. "The draft … all that is behind me. All I'm focusing on is trying to turn heads and try to prepare for training camp."
Author: Aaron Vickers | NHL.com Correspondent