This year, there is a pretty clear cut top three in the draft. After Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi, there are a number of players who could go anywhere else in the top-15 depending on team needs. Matthew Tkachuk is one such player that could drop a little.
He is almost guaranteed to go in the top-10, and is in fact predicted on average to be gone in the top-five. Coming off a 107-point rookie season in the OHL, he made plenty of noise among NHL scouts to get himself where he is, and he should be gone pretty early when June 24 comes around.
Birthplace: Scottsdale, Arizona
Position: Left Wing
Height: 6'1" Weight: 194lbs
Tkachuk is a good skater with solid top-end speed. He's not the biggest forward you'll find, but he brings a good level of toughness to his game, taking it to the net and making his presence felt. He has great offensive awareness and positioning, putting himself in great position at the attacking end of the ice to feed a teammate or score himself.
He lit it up with the USNDTP, and had strong showings for his country at both the U18 and World Junior tournaments. Of the utmost intrigue, though, was the ridiculous production he enjoyed during that rookie OHL season.
Of some concern is whether or not his production was inflated by playing alongside the already drafted Mitch Marner. Of his 77 assists on the year, the majority (41) were secondary, so that concern could have some merit if you look only at that. However, once he got to the playoffs, he did his best to put those concerns to bed.
Putting up a ridiculous 40 points (20G, 20A) in 18 games, en route to the Knights' Memorial Cup win, he put up 11 primary assists against nine secondary. He looked much less like a passenger, and the numbers he put up went a long way to supporting the argument that he is a very legitimately good prospect.
It will be big to see what he can do next year without Mitch Marner on his line. It stands to reason that whoever takes him will leave him in the OHL for next year, and if he can maintain his production without the same supporting cast, it will go a long way to legitimizing him further.
One of the things that makes Tkachuk a high end prospect for this draft is his vision. His vision is on an elite level. He has a special ability to create offense when there doesn't seem to be a lane. He posted nearly two points per game and while he had great linemates to play with, they benefitted from him as much as he benefitted from them. Tkachuk stats would suggest he is more of a playmaker than a finisher, but he has proven that he has a good shot and can put the puck in the net. He’s great at setting up his linemates and makes others around him better. Tkachuk will play a physically engaging game, he is one of those players who gets under his opponents skin. As far as a weakness, he’s just an average skater and doesn't possess separation speed. Improving on his quickness and top speed would be beneficial but it hasn’t held him back so far. He seems to find a way, there is nothing wrong with his compete level. Tkachuk has a thick frame, which he uses to protect the puck well.
He chooses great lanes on the rush with and without the puck. One of things that we think will lead to him having great success in the NHL is his ability to play at an elite level in the dirty areas of the ice. He’s fantastic from in tight, his ability to win pucks, fight off checks and score from inside is fantastic. His hand eye is great and his ability to anticipate possible scoring chances is impressive. We’ve seen him score numerous goals on deflections. He’s ok defensively; he’s had great nights and others where he could’ve been better. The quality of his back pressure was inconsistent from game to game. Tkachuk projects to be a top line winger who makes his linemates better. His vision and passing ability is very high end and will translate very well at the NHL level. Don’t sleep on his shot, he has buried some chances with impressive shots. His skating could be improved upon but we don’t expect it to be a stopper as far as NHL success goes. He has the upside of a perennial all-star NHL forward.
Basically, along with Marner, Dvorak – led Knights to 2016 Memorial Cup Championship. Character kid provides leadership in the form of compete level, toughness and scoring prowess on nightly basis. He is incredibly strong down low, and is extremely difficult to knock off the puck. That along with his vision and skill set will make him an elite power forward in the NHL. Great around the net and along the boards. Very good offensive upside and always dangerous around the puck. Always in good support and knows what he will do with the puck before he gets it. Needs to work at playing a more committed defensive game and improve his play at both ends of the ice. Strong skater with very good balance however his overall quickness needs work.
Tkachuk, son of former NHL power forward Keith Tkachuk, is a feisty pro-style winger who goes hard to the net. He is an offense-minded winger who plays a quick-thinking, dynamic game.He is a clever winger with explosive burst who has the ability to take over a game with his play down low. Tkachuk has a tendency to go to the front of the net and around the crease, both with and without the puck, as he intelligently anticipates the puck’s movement. He has a penchant for getting to prime offensive areas thanks to his high hockey IQ and ability to squeeze through bodies to gain positioning.Tkachuk has a flair to his game, making creative and skilled passes, and has no trouble making slick moves with the puck while under pressure. Even when he is completely stretched out, he is strong on the puck, protecting it and making it difficult for defenders to knock him off it. He puts himself in the right position on his check to hold them off and when knocked down, he is quick to get back up and is more driven than before to make something happen and make the opponent pay.
The winger displays a long, extremely strong northbound stride, which allows him to pick up speed with each push through the ice. Tkachuk uses his speed effectively to chase down and pressure the puck-carrier and/or get moving up. The biggest strength in his game is his vision in all areas of the ice. He can make a timely behind-the-back pass right on the tape of his teammate streaking for the net while holding off a defender’s check. He sees the whole ice and makes quick decisions on the best option after quickly evaluating and seeing the play develop. Tkachuk exploits lanes and picks his spots with near perfection. While at high speed, he still maintains possession of the puck and can do so while he makes elusive plays and power moves around defenders without slowing down. He possesses creative and fast hands as he moves to the net with a goal-scorer’s touch. Defensively, he races back on the backcheck and picks up his man, even covering up missed assignments when needed.
Future Considerations: 5th
Central Scouting Service: 2nd (North American skaters)
Hockey Prospect Black Book: 5th
DraftBuzz Hockey: 5th
If he happens to slide down to the ninth overall spot, the Canadiens would be foolish if they didn't take a long, hard look at him. Most pundits are predicting him to go in the top five, so if teams in that range decide to go a little off the board and drop him down, they have to seriously consider making the pick.
Yes, the Marner effect on his stats is a legitimate concern for one to have, but it takes talent to play with high level players like him. Tkachuk not only held his own weight, but he did so in his very first year in the OHL. He quickly developed a rapport with his linemates, and they lit it up all the way to the Memorial Cup.
This is not, however, a player I would trade up to take. Yes, he looks a legitimate prospect, but he's probably a year or two away from the NHL at least. They would likely have to give up a little more than I would like to see in order to get him, so if they want him the best bet is probably to just hope that he slides.
And you never know, because there are some real question marks after the top-three this year.