2nd among North American Skaters
Matthew Tkachuk, forward for the London Knights, is more than pleased with how his first Ontario Hockey League season turned out.
Ranked second among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Tkachuk recorded 33 goals and 77 assists for 107 points in 57 games this season, as well as 40 points in 18 post-season games that contributed to the team’s 2016 OHL Championship status.
He’s generated plenty of interest with his strong post-season play, even in the midst of nursing an ankle injury that he sustained in Game 2 against the Niagara IceDogs during the OHL Championship series. Despite his injury, Tkachuk stole the show that night, recording a hat trick plus an extra assist that contributed to the Knights 6-1 win and eventual four-game sweep.
“It’s all about preparation and it’s all about the mental state,” Tkachuk told Oilers radio play-by-play announcer Jack Michaels at the 2016 NHL Combine in Buffalo. “It was really hard physically but I had the right attitude and I wasn’t going to give up for my teammates.”
And give up he didn’t. After the Knights became victorious in their OHL Championship pursuit, they advanced to the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Red Deer where they quickly established themselves as a dominant force against the Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions, as well as the host the Red Deer Rebels.
Tkachuk didn’t take a night off, recording five goals and three assists for eight points in four games. His biggest moment of the tournament came during the final against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, where he scored the game-winning goal 7:49 into overtime to give the Knights a 3-2 win and second Memorial Cup title in franchise history.
“For me — through injuries and all that — I could have easily sat out a couple games but those games were too important and I think a team needs everybody, and everybody going 100 per cent. I tried to do that and I was happy I did and I was just so happy the guys gave it their all too and it took a total team effort to win the Memorial Cup.”
As a projected 2016 top-five NHL Draft pick, Tkachuk decided not to participate in the fitness-testing portion of the NHL Combine, in favour of recuperating from his injury. But that’s not to say the 18-year-old hasn’t made an impact already.
A strong, skilled forward with a high offensive IQ and a pro-style game, his performance in the post-season has supposedly seen his draft stock “gain momentum”, and he could even go as high as third overall, adding some intrigue to what was previously viewed as a locked-in “Big Three” of Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi.
Tkachuk is one of three American-born players that hail from southern states that are ranked within the top 10 at this year’s draft. Son of former NHL centreman Keith Tkachuk, Matthew says he is ready to make his mark in the pro league and is proud to represent a state such as Arizona in the draft.
“I want to be a trailblazer in hockey,” he said. “I want young kids to look up to guys like myself or Auston Matthews or Jakob Chychrun and say they did it from a different [state] that may not produce as [many successful players] as Minnesota or Boston or Michigan. I just hope they grow hockey in the United States because there’s a lot of young athletes in that country and if we get more guys playing hockey we’re going to quickly turn into one of the world powers.”
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
- Director of Scouting, D. MacInnis: “Not much to not like about him. Power forward with an NHL-quality frame and excellent net presence. Drives to the net hard and is not afraid to be in the dirty areas to create opportunities.”
- ISS Scout D. Hunchak: “Dynamic with the puck and always a threat. He anticipates and thinks it out so well in the [offensive zone]. Great vision and puck awareness. He can be even more dangerous if he leaned on opponents harder.”
- Curtis Joe from Elite Prospects: “A multi-dimensional energy winger that plays a pro-style, adaptive game. Well-versed as a guy who can consistently put up points, but also as an agitator who plays with a little bit of bite and nastiness. Skates with excellent balance and speed, outclassing many in his age range. No lack of offensive instincts and knows how to score in many different ways. Confidence in his abilities and playing to the extent of his capabilities strengthens his work ethic and creativity. All-in-all, a unique and effective forward who defines his own limits and seeks to exceed them, along with all on-ice expectations.”