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Matthew Tkachuk: Postcard from U.S. select camp

by Matthew Tkachuk

Matthew Tkachuk, an A-rated skater on NHL Central's November players to watch list 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 has 14 goals and 59 points in 29 games. He had 38 goals and 96 points in 65 games with USA Hockey's Under-18 National Team Development Program last season. The St. Louis native has offered to maintain a blog for leading up to the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, N.Y. His fourth entry comes from U.S. national junior select camp in Boston, Mass.

Hello from Agganis Arena in Boston!

It's been a really good week so far at U.S. junior select camp and I'm so grateful to be given an opportunity to earn a roster spot for my country at the World Junior Championship. My only expectation coming in was to play as well as I can, fight for a spot on the team and play my game. Hopefully the coaches and management see what I bring and then I'm fortunate enough to gain a spot on the team, and get that chance to dominate over in Finland at the 2016 WJC. We've had a couple of tough finishes [in the WJC] recently and our team in the locker room really wants to change that this year.

We're not satisfied at all with coming out of this tournament without a gold medal and we have the team this year to definitely make a huge run for it. The finishes over the past few years are in the back of our minds, and we want to change it.

It's been great having Ron Wilson as a coach. My dad (Keith Tkachuk) didn't really give me too much insight into Coach Wilson and what his experiences were like with him, but he did tell me that he's a great guy. I've noticed he's a really laid back coach but you can tell he's been around the game long enough where he expects a lot out of his players. He does the right drills in practice, and has high expectations for us this year. He's been a great coach his whole career so whatever he says, we really listen. The World Junior Championship will probably cap off his international career so if some of the guys in this locker room are fortunate enough to make the team, we'd love to win it for him and for our country.

The assistant coaches on this team are really helping out as well. Sometimes you have that head coach who wants to do it all himself; it's their team and it'll be run by them. But Coach Wilson really allows coaches [Kevin] Reiter, [Danton] Cole and [Chris] Chelios to be involved in practice. You hear them talking all the time and they'll pull us aside in practice when looking to help us out. I think it's great to have that coaches' aspect where it's one unit and not just one head coach. There are four coaches combining the same thoughts and that's been really positive for us as players.

On the lighter side, it's been fun having Auston Matthews as a roommate this week. We had a couple of mall visits in our free time and it's been great otherwise. We've been getting to bed pretty early so that we're rested up for the week.

I've been asked a few times this week if I think Auston's game is different now that he has played in Switzerland the past three months. Honestly, he plays the same game, but it's just on another level. He's just that more dominant with the puck and that much stronger and faster. His hands are a lot better and it seems like he's been picking corners here at camp better than he has in the past, so it's all positive.

Thanks for reading this month and have a great New Year everyone!

Follow Matthew Tkachuk on Twitter at: @TKACHUKycheese

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