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Rookie watch: Tkachuk not slowing down for Senators

Forward plans to keep building on strong start to NHL career

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

The consensus is that Brady Tkachuk already has the combativeness of many of the top power forwards in the NHL today.

That may not surprise those who watched the 19-year-old rise to the level of his competition throughout much of his amateur hockey career, but the Ottawa Senators rookie left wing believes he has more to give.

"I always feel I could be better, develop my game even more, so I'm making plays and being more consistent every shift so that's what I'm focusing on," Tkachuk said. "I feel I've been playing pretty well a majority of the games, but well isn't good enough. I want to be my best every single game so that's what I need to apply."

Tkachuk (6-foot-3, 196 pounds) missed 11 games because of a leg injury sustained on Oct. 15 but is tied for third with Miro Heiskanen (Dallas Stars), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Montreal Candiens) and Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo Sabres) in NHL rookie scoring with 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) and ranks third in average ice time (15:28) among forwards. He is fifth in hits (54) among rookies having played 20 or more games.

"He's a hard-nosed kid; when you see him fighting and battling with 30-year-old men and getting the upper hand, that's pretty impressive," Senators coach Guy Boucher said. "Some guys act tough; Brady is tough. He's the real deal in all aspects, including his attitude, work ethic, discipline, and attention to detail.

Video: OTT@PHI: Tkachuk cleans up rebound in front

"It's his first year and you don't know how long young guys can sustain it with so many games in the NHL, so you have to see because it's usually tough to be able to do that an entire year. But if there's one guy I think can do it, it would be him."

Ottawa controls 50.93 percent of all shots attempted with Tkachuk on the ice, which is the second-highest among all Senators players. 

"The size, strength and grit he brings is stuff that older guys can't even do, to be honest," Senators center Matt Duchene said. "He does a lot of intangible things that are going to make him a great player for a long time and you can tell that his dad and mom have prepared him for this kind of career. His dad (Keith Tkachuk) had an amazing career and Brady has such a good temperament, is mature and he gets it. You can tell that's the way he's kind of been groomed, so that same maturity translates on the ice."

Tkachuk is second on the Senators in penalty minutes (23). He has made life miserable for opposing goaltenders at the net front, something he takes great pride in.

"I never want to hurt anybody or take advantage of someone," Tkachuk said. "For me it's always play hard no matter who [the opponent]. I'll try to out-compete and outwork them. I don't care if they've been in the league 20 years or are a rookie. My work ethic and effort isn't going to change and I'll try to win that battle."

Video: OTT@PHI: Tkachuk redirects second goal of the game

David Quinn was coach for five seasons at Boston University and had Tkachuk in his final season before being named coach of the New York Rangers on May 23. He said Tkachuk is much more than a prototypical power forward.

"He's going to be a big-time player in the League," Quinn said. "Everybody talks about his size, strength and determination but he has a lot of skill too. He's got great hands, passes the puck well and can shoot, so I'm not surprised he's doing so well. Because he's so big and plays with a snarl, people focus on that, but sometimes what gets overlooked is his offensive ability and skill set."

The late Jim Johannson was always an advocate of a young player's assessment and the role that has in reaching full potential.

Johannson, who enjoyed evaluating United States-born players working their way through USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, served as assistant executive director of USA Hockey for 11 seasons before his death on Jan. 21.

He always spoke highly of Tkachuk, who was selected by the Senators No. 4 in the 2018 NHL Draft.

"From the outside, people look at stats and think that's the player, but that's not the player," Johannson told in January. "Self-assessment is a real important aspect of player development and Brady's self-assessment is excellent but it's excellent in two perspectives. One, he knows what he's good at and, two, knows the areas in which he can get even better. That's what will make him an elite player."

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