Matthew Tkachuk, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft, is in his first season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound left wing had 30 goals and 107 points in 57 regular-season games. He has 13 goals and 26 points in 11 OHL playoff games. Matthew's father, Keith Tkachuk, is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Tkachuk has offered to maintain a blog for NHL.com leading up to the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo.
Hi, hockey fans!
We were able to win Game 1 of our Western Conference Final on the road against the Erie Otters 7-4 on Wednesday. It's all about the start, and I felt we came out of the gate really well. We had a couple of power plays that helped us, but we worked hard for those and were rewarded with a few goals.
When you have that lead early in the game, it's a big confidence boost. I think we deflated them a little bit [taking a 4-1 lead in the first period]. We came out in the second period and sat back a little bit, which isn't our style. I think we were too worried with the fact we had such a lead, so we sat back and played defense. But then they got a couple of goals and that's when they got a little bit of confidence and started getting into their groove. I thought we played some of our best hockey to begin the third period.
I thought Olli Juolevi's goal in the third period was huge [to give London a 5-3 lead] with 10 minutes to play. The final seven or eight minutes, goalie Tyler Parsons made a couple of great saves and we blocked some shots. We have a good feeling heading into Game 2 [in Erie on Sunday].
The thing is, you envision playing for an OHL championship all year and to realize how close you are, but at the same time how close Erie is. It's why it could be such a good battle. Every game is so important and you kind of have to pinch yourself and stop thinking about the dream of a Memorial Cup right now. You just have to concentrate on the next game against Erie. If we play our game, I don't think there's a team that can compete with us. We just want to go out and have a great team effort.
My line with [Toronto Maple Leafs prospect] Mitch Marner and [Arizona Coyotes prospect] Christian Dvorak kind of clicked in the first week of the season. Marner and Dvorak have played together the past couple of years, and then I came in as the new guy. It took me two or three games to kind of know where I needed to go to make sure I got the puck. But ever since then, it's kind of clicked, and right now it's just fun playing together. We're just having fun and that's why we're having some success.
It's been great to have so much success on the road in the playoffs [London is 6-0]. We're taking the crowd out of it and actually I think we played our best first period of the playoffs [against Erie on Wednesday]. I just think we've been able to pull out games and we've gotten solid goaltending from Tyler Parsons back there. He's been our MVP in the playoffs so far. He's won us games and luckily we gave him a little bit of a cushion [in Game 1].
Personally, I wouldn't say I'm satisfied with my playoff production. I guess there's a little sense of accomplishment that I've been a part of a winning team for the first two playoff series. I feel like I'm trying to chip in as much as possible to help this team. That's the same mentality for every player in our locker room. I just think that I've had a couple more goals in these playoffs; it's more than I would have had the first 11 games of the regular season. The fact our whole team has been more prepared for games is because it's playoff hockey. We all know nothing is better than playoff hockey, and winning it all would be a dream come true.
Though there's a lot to think about over the next few weeks, I'm also looking to see how the United States is doing in the World Under-18 Championship in North Dakota. I won a gold medal for the U.S. U-18 team last year and I want to see the team win again. I talked to a few guys on the team a few weeks ago, and there are so many great players and coaches on that team. I know the team chemistry there is really good, and I think they can do it again.
Finally, with regard to NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2016 NHL Draft, I'm not too worried about it right now. I wasn't worried about it at the midterm ranking [when Tkachuk was No. 1 on the list] and I'm not worried now [as the No. 2-ranked skater]. I think I'm playing my best hockey of the year right now, and I just want to keep it up. Right now, it's not about the NHL Draft. Hopefully we can win the OHL Championship and then the Memorial Cup. Then I can start focusing on the Draft. But right now, my focus is the London Knights.