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Does Tkachev have Mustard to Play?

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Russian tryout forward Vladimir Tkachev (left) had two assists on Wednesday against the Jets

He's a junior hockey player with junior high size. That aptly describes Vladimir Tkachev, who has become an interesting storyline and player all at the same time during Edmonton Oilers camp. He isn't just some freak as part of a circus act. Vladimir Tkachev is a hockey player, albeit a small one, who is slowly making a big impact with the Oilers. He gets noticed because of his size but is also getting noticed because of his skill. The kid's got talent -- lots of it -- but it's hard not to look past his height and weight.

He's officially listed at 5'9" 141 pounds but if you check hockeydb, the 18 year old is listed at 5'8"163 pounds. I'll take their word on the 5'8" but I would doubt the 163 pounds. Dallas Eakins said he thought it was someone looking for an autograph. I have to agree as I thought the same thing when he first showed up in Penticton. He makes Oilers TV host Tom Gazzola look like a grandpa. Tom is 29 going on 20. Tkachev is 18 going on 12. I'm not trying to make fun of him but I'm trying to paint the picture of what this teenager looks like when he's not on the ice in hockey equipment. It's truly amazing how boyish he looks.

His first shift at the Young Stars tournament, which was streamed on EdmontonOilers.com, I actually briefly turned away when he went into the corner with one of the Vancouver Canucks prospects. I was a little bit concerned what might happen. I guess you don't play in the QMJHL with Moncton and get 30 points in 20 games if you can't play against players who are all bigger than you. I know it's not even close to the NHL but at that Prospects event there were 11 first-round picks (two with the Oilers: Leon Draisaitl/Darnell Nurse). No shortage of high end junior skill and Tkachev looked calm with the puck and confident.

The Oilers will have to make a decision on this youngster by October 1. Sign him and he goes back to Moncton. If they decide not to then he becomes available to them and others in the 2015 NHL Draft. The size thing can't be written off but after covering the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs and standing beside -- and yes, towering over -- Brendan Gallagher you don't have to be huge to have a big impact. I remember during the 2004-05 lockout seeing Brian Gionta play in Edmonton and I thought, who is that tiny guy. The next season that 'tiny guy', who is listed at 5'7" but is likely smaller, had 48 goals and 89 points with the New Jersey Devils. Martin St.Louis, Tyler Ennis, David Desharnais, Brad Marchand and many more have had varying degrees of success despite being small in stature.There are no tape measures or scales to size up a person's heart, determination, courage and confidence among other things.

Last night Tkachev played his second pre-season game for Edmonton. He picked up a pair of assists. Great passes by the 'Little One'. It may or may not be enough of a sample of the kids work to decide on signing him.

I trust the Oilers will do the right thing. In my mind they've already done that. Bringing him here and having a look was a good decision. It may land them a player. It also opens the door for other players to know the Oilers are an organization willing to give an unknown a chance. Anyways that's how I size up Vladimir Tkachev's tryout with Edmonton.
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