By Jason Pirie
A tenacious winger who’s demonstrated he is willing to pay the price to score, the American-born Tkachuk could be considered the top eligible forward at this year’s NHL Entry Draft outside the flashy Big 3 comprised of Auston Matthews and the Finnish duo of Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujärvi.
Not a bad consolation prize (if you want to call him that) for those teams holding a selection beyond the top three.
Tkachuk – a graduate of the US NTDP program – is relentless on the forecheck, causes turnovers, creates space for his linemates and has stellar playmaking ability. He’s also an agitator who has a nose for the net and has displayed decent hands at the junior level.
He played a major role, alongside projected number one pick Matthews, during Team USA’s bronze medal performance at World Juniors with four goals and 11 points in seven tournament games.
As a product of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, who in recent years have produced the likes of Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrick Kane, Max Domi, et al., Tkachuk was named the OHL’s Western Conference second smartest player in the annual Coaches Poll behind only Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome.
Scouts will continue to get a closer look at Tkachuk as he and the Knights earned the organization’s fourth Memorial Cup berth in five years on Wednesday by sweeping aside the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL Final. Tkachuk racked up a league-high 20 goals and added 20 assists during London’s dominant playoff run.
A son of U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Keith Tkachuk, he may not possess his father’s pure scoring touch (his old man tortured NHL goalies for 538 goals over 18 seasons) but has the potential of developing into a more complete player.
He is also expected to hear his name called earlier than his father who was nabbed 19th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1990.