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NHL Draft

London's Tkachuk models game after father, others

NHL Draft prospect helps lead Knights to Memorial Cup Final

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

RED DEER, Alberta -- London Knights left wing Matthew Tkachuk likes to model his game after a number of different NHL players. 

Tkachuk's biggest influence, however, is his father, Keith Tkachuk, who scored 538 goals in 19 NHL seasons for the Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues and Atlanta Thrashers. 

On Tuesday, Matthew Tkachuk had two goals and an assist for London in a 5-2 victory against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies at the 2016 Memorial Cup. The win advanced the Ontario Hockey League champions to the final Sunday (4:30 p.m. ET; NHL Network, SN, TVA Sports 2). 

"We're both big bodies and we like to use our size," said Tkachuk, who is 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. "[Keith] was more of an in-your-face, down-your-throat type of player. I like to mix in a little finesse too, and I like to make plays. He was a pure goal scorer and I like to mix in a little bit of both." 

Tkachuk, 18, is rated No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft. 

He is projected to go as high as No. 4, held by the Edmonton Oilers. 

"He definitely does [have his father in him]," London coach Dale Hunter said. "His dad scored a lot of goals; I played against him. It wasn't just scoring on the rush, his dad scored behind the net, coming out in front, playing hard in front and tipping pucks. So he's got a lot of his dad in him, that's why he's going to be a good player." 

Tkachuk scored on the power play at 17:43 of the first period to give London a 2-0 lead against Rouyn-Noranda, tipping a shot from defenseman Olli Juolevi past goaltender Chase Marchand. 

Tkachuk had an assist on Christian Dvorak's power-play goal at 6:20 of the third period to increase London's lead to 4-1, and scored an empty-net goal with 1:31 remaining. 

"He battles through a lot," said London forward Mitchell Marner, who had four assists. "He gets the best defenders every night bearing down on him and he just keeps playing through it. He's been a great leader on this team, a guy you can really go to and rely on." 

Tkachuk's offensive ability and feisty playing style draws comparisons to Anaheim Ducks center Corey Perry, who helped lead London to the 2005 Memorial Cup championship. 

Tkachuk had 107 points (30 goals, 77 assists) in 57 games with London during the regular season. He had 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) in 18 playoff games for the OHL champion Knights. 

"That's a great compliment," Tkachuk said. "Corey is, obviously, a great player and was an unbelievable junior player. To be put in the same sentence, I don't think that's even fair to him. 

"He was unbelievable and it's cool to be compared to him. I try to model my game after guys like him and after guys like JVR (James van Riemsdyk) and Jamie Benn and those types of guys. I'm trying to be my own player, but it's cool to watch other players and try to model yourself after them." 

In London's Memorial Cup opening 6-2 win against the host Red Deer Rebels, Tkachuk goaded defenseman Haydn Fleury into taking a roughing penalty, then assisted on the ensuing power-play goal to give the Knights a 1-0 lead. 

"He loves getting under teams' skin and he's really good at it, but he's also a guy that can go back and put it in your net," Marner said. "He's scary on both ends of the ice and he's probably not fun to play against, but on your line, you love him." 

Tkachuk has three goals and three assists in three games at the Memorial Cup and has made his share of enemies with his agitating game. 

"I just think it's one of those things, I guess it's a gift being able to get under people's skin," Tkachuk said. "I know even if I don't do anything, people seem to come after me, and that's something that I guess comes with the job." 

London go into the final Sunday on a 16-game winning streak. The Knights won 13 consecutive games in the OHL playoffs on their way to the league title. 

"We want to keep this going," Tkachuk said. "We're one win away from capping, probably, one of the best seasons in junior hockey history." 
What we learned:
It is not a good idea to continually give London power-play opportunities. The Knights were 3-for-7 on the power play in the victory against Rouyn-Noranda. They are 9-for-20 in three games at the Memorial Cup. 
Key moment: With Rouyn-Noranda on the power play, trailing 2-1 in the second period, Huskies goalie Chase Marchand misplays a puck cleared down the ice, allowing London forward Max Jones to get to it first in the goaltender restricted area behind the net. Jones passes the puck to Marner in front of the net, who freezes Marchand with a fake and returns it for a tap-in to give London a 3-1 lead with the shorthanded goal at 17:28. 
Player of the game:
Marner, who had four assists in the win. Marner has two goals and 13 points at the tournament, putting him within three points of the Memorial Cup record shared by Jeff Larmer of the Kitchener Rangers (1982) and Guy Rouleau of the Hull Olympiques (1986). 
Quotable: "Knowing Mitch, he probably doesn't even care about the record, he's more of a team guy. He wants to score because he wants to win, he doesn't want to score because he wants to break a record. I don't even know if he even knows what the record is, he wants to score and lead this team." - London forward Max Jones
Wednesday's game: Red Deer vs. Brandon (8 p.m. ET; SN360, TVA Sports 2, NHL Network tape delay 9 p.m. ET).

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