Matthew Tkachuk, an "A" rated skater on NHL Central's September 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 eight goals and 34 points in 18 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 NHL.com leading up to the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, N.Y. His third entry comes after the Knights have won six of the past seven games.
I think we're really coming together at this point in the season; it took us 10 games or so to get used to each other but we're all finding chemistry right now. We have all four lines rolling and it seems we're getting production out of everybody. We've played all 60 minutes for most games this year and our record (13-3-2) is pretty solid; we could do better but things are just going well right now.
I feel I'm clicking well with my linemates Mitchell Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Christian Dvorak (Arizona Coyotes). They're NHL-ready players and know the game really well. They've been in this league for a little bit, so it's been easier for me to adjust. They've given me the puck and we're really playing well together right now, and it just needs to continue.
Personally, I just think I'm putting more pucks to the net. (Tkachuk has scored four goals and 19 points in the past seven games.) I sat down with one of our coaches a couple of weeks ago and went over some of my scoring and realized the chances were there; I just had to bear down more. As of late, pucks have been going in for me and I'm playing with a couple good players who are giving me the puck, so it's been positive.
Confidence is big, but all the players on this team and at this level are pretty confident, and with our capabilities you have to figure the puck will eventually go in if we put it to the net.
It seems wherever we play there are a lot of scouts, but your mindset can't be that if we're playing somewhere else you can take a night off. You have to think every night that somebody important is watching. You're trying to get the win for your teammates too because they expect not to take a night off as well. I think our team is doing a great job of that right now. Coach (Dale Hunter) doesn't necessarily tell us that we need to go out every night and give it 100 percent, but you can definitely tell he expects that and that's not just for the NHL Draft-eligible guys either. It's for the whole team so you have to get the most out of yourself.
We don't have a game on American Thanksgiving Day (on Nov. 26) so I'm pretty sure a lot of us will be invited to (London owner/general manager) Basil McRae's house for dinner. They've hosted Thanksgiving in the past and have heard they do a tremendous job.
Finally, the United States select camp for the World Junior Championship is something I've been thinking more and more about as the date gets close. Hopefully I am invited to camp; if I play well for the Knights over the next month we'll see what happens. I think I put myself in a pretty good spot to be invited to camp, and once you get invited you have to show the coaches and management you can be a part of that team.
This is a big year for USA Hockey at this tournament. There's been a couple of tough finishes the past two years, so I really don't know if they're going to take a different approach or dynamic to creating this team headed to Finland. I do know that competitiveness will be a big factor for me. If I'm the most competitive guy at that camp, I hope it makes an impression.
Until next time, Happy American Thanksgiving!
Follow Matthew Tkachuk on Twitter at: @TKACHUKycheese