TLN Draft Prospect Watch: Matthew Tkachuk

He has a familiar name and the pedigree that goes with it.
Being a 100 point player on the powerhouse London Knights, who just happened to
be owned by the guy running the draft for the Leafs. He has NHL size (194 lbs,
6’1), and he’s dominated at every level. That’s pretty much the short version
on why we’re talking about Matthew Tkachuk as a Top Five player in the draft.

Of course, when scouts start talking about pedigree and size
that often raises flags for the rest of us and while Tkachuk is definitely a
proven first round talent, certainly one worthy of going in the first half of
the round, there may be others more worthy of going in the top five of the
draft.

Where is he ranked?

At the moment, Tkachuk currently sits 4th on the
TLN Consolidated Rankings. Fourth is pretty much where he’s been throughout the
season since most early scouting reports in September and October had him
behind Matthews, Puljujarvi, and Chychrun, and now here were are in April and
Chychrun has dropped below Matthew, but Patrik Laine has jumped up past him.

By current rankings, Tkachuk is safely nestled in the 4-6
range without any outliers. Two draft rankings have him at 4 (the two that poll
NHL scouts, Bob McKenzie’s rankings and Sportsnet) and two have him at 6 (ISS,
McKeens) while the rest have him 5th. At his peak, both ISS and
Sportsnet had Tkachuk as their second ranked prospect heading into the World
Juniors.

By the Numbers

The 10,000 foot view of Tkachuk’s numbers is pretty good.
He’s put up 30 goals, and 107 points in 57 games, and while I’m sure I’m not
alone in wishing those goal totals were higher, that could come from the fact
that there is an expectation for Tkachuk to be like his father, a sniper, when
in fact Matthew might be more of a complete player.

Tkachuk’s numbers are also heavily influenced by the fact
that for the majority of the season he was riding shotgun to Mitch Marner and
Christian Dvorak, who finished 2nd and 3rd in the league
in scoring (Tkachuk was 5th). The line was put together shortly
after the Marner at center experiment failed and he was placed on Dvorak’s wing
and not surprisingly that much talent had no problem destroying the OHL.

It’s largely because of Dvorak and Marner that we have our
doubts about Tkachuk. Matthew was far and away the OHL leader in secondary
assists with 41, and dumping off to his linemates was a big part of his point
total. The next closest draft eligible player for secondary assists is Cam
Dineen, a defenseman, with 24, and the next highest forward is Logan Brown with
23. The majority of Brown’s assists were primary assists, the same can’t be
said for Tkachuk.

While a rather big deal has been made of the volume of
secondary assists for Tkachuk, it’s worth noting that he still has the second
highest point total in the OHL of draft eligibles when it comes to primary
points. Tkachuk sits at 66 while Alexander DeBrincat has run away from the rest
of the pack with 79.

tkachukstats

Another part of what has caused some worry with Tkachuk is
his even strength production. I mean, points on the powerplay count just as
much, and I don’t want to say that they don’t matter, but the fact is that
Tkachuk has 20 goals, 17 primary assists, and 26 secondary assists at even
strength, something that moves others past him in even strength production.

 Tkachuk has put up
some very good numbers on a very good line on a very good team and that’s the
reason why we question them. We’ve seen recently with Brendan Perlini what can
happen when someone gets drafted on the strength of their special teams
numbers, and his struggles to repeat his draft year success.

The thing is though, if Tkachuk wasn’t able to add value to
the line with Dvorak and Marner, it’s not like the Knights are team without
other options on the wing. Aaron Berisha, J.J. Piccinich or Max Jones all would
have happily filled that role if Tkachuk showed any sign of not being able to
handle it.

There might be some buyer beware, but Tkachuk’s numbers
still warrant him going near the top of the draft.

What He Does Well…

While people are quick to compare Tkachuk to his father, I’d
have to say I’m in general disagreement with that. Certainly Matthew is going
to be a top six player like his father. He certainly has the potential to be an
all-star like his father. He even has an agitating side like his Dad. The
differences are that Matthew doesn’t have his Dad’s shot, and doesn’t fit into
that power forward mold like his Dad.

The trade off is you are getting a much better skater than
Keith ever was. Matthew’s speed is better than most his age and has a strong
edge to his skating. Tkachuk also a much better playmaker than his father and
the combination of Tkachuk being a physical winger with great smarts and vision
make him a bit of a rare commodity.

Drawbacks

It’s not that Tkachuk has a lot of holes in his game, he
really doesn’t. Compared to his age group and OHL peers he’s pretty much an
above average across the board player. He has the usual winger defensive zone
blindspot, but it’s not as significant as others in the draft.

Heading into the draft you would have hoped for more than 30
goals from Tkachuk, but given his linemates and what they produced together he
did pretty well for himself.

What others are
saying…

From Dobber
Prospects:


“February 2016 – Tkachuk is tearing up the OHL scoring at almost two points per
game. The big winger has a high compete level to compliment his great vision
and hockey sense and elite skill level. He skates well but not exceptionally
fast, can play a physical game, and is strong on the puck, can finish and
create scoring plays. His physique and skill set are ideal for the pro level
and his hockey sense should all translate to a high end NHL career. Peter
Harling”

From Flames Nation:

“Matthew Tkachuk has a very stellar NHLE of 48 playing in the OHL
(conversion of 0.3 – cohort based on OHL players of the past 10 years that
entered the NHL at age 20 or younger). His NHLE is incredible but there is
concern that his linemates, Marner and Dvorak, are propping him up slightly or
even quite drastically, like Kane did for Gagner in 2007 with the
very same Knights. However, Tkachuk had a NHLE of 30 in the USHL as a
17-year-old last year, which is very, very good for the USHL and for a
17-year-old. For perspective, Gaudreau’s was 24 in the same league and he was
about four months older than Tkachuk by the time the season ended.”

From the Vancouver
Province
:

“Matthew Tkachuk says he’s a different player than the old man and his
father agrees. But it also seems this apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.
Tkachuk, pere, was a prototypical power
forward who played at 235 pounds while putting together eight 30-goal seasons
and six seasons of at least 150 penalty minutes. Tkachuk, fils, is a slightly
more refined version of his dad but he still goes 6-foot-1, weighs 190 pounds
and has 70 points and 48 penalty minutes in just 37 games with the Knights.
“He’s the best player in the draft from the
(face-off) dots in,” says Canucks GM Jim Benning, who’s seen Tkachuk play 15
times this season. Just saying.
“He’s more skilled than I was,” Keith says.
“These kids do stuff at a young age I couldn’t do as a pro. We’re happy with
the decision (to play in London). I just wish I got a chance to see him more.”

Does He Make Sense for the Leafs?

The Leafs need high end
talent, and Tkachuk by most accounts is exactly that. The Leafs have depth some
depth on the wing, but Tkachuk is most likely ahead of the pack on talent, and
the physicality he brings to the top six would have him stand out from the
primarily smaller forwards.

Tkachuk also has a year
worth of working well with Mitch Marner to his name, and that’s got to carry at
least similar consideration to those who demand the Nylanders be reunited.

If Tkachuk is the best
player available when Toronto picks, I’d imagine he’d get a lot of
consideration. The Leafs need for defense and a top line center makes me wonder
if they’d give more consideration to trading down if Tkachuk is the best player
available at that time.

Of course, a player from
a Mark Hunter owned team, where said player was coached and managed by his
other brothers is hard to pass up and is a similar story to how Mitch Marner
came to be a Leaf.

Conclusion

From now until the draft
expect Matt Tkachuk to a beating for his secondary assists, even strength
production and having two strong linemates to work with, and really it’s good
buyer beware for a team with a top five pick, but for teams with picks 6-15,
he’s truly fair game.

For a team like Toronto,
Tkachuk is much more of a nice to have than a must a have, and I’d have to
imagine that there are a lot of other teams near the bottom of the standings
that feel the same way. While I wouldn’t expect Tkachuk to slide in the draft,
I see him going to a team that sees themselves as close to being ready to
compete again or a team that views themselves as just coming off one bad year.

  • FlareKnight

    I agree with you completely. I like what you said about him being a nice to have and not a must have. You draft BPA for sure, but Toronto is definitely loaded on the wings. Hopefully we don’t need to worry about drafting 4th, but if we do I’d look at Chychrun, Dubois and Nylander first. I have a huge crush on Tyson Jost too, but he would be way too much of a reach and he won’t fall to the Pittsburgh pick.

  • Bob Canuck

    The even strength point problem can be partially explained by the fact that Marner and Dvorak are the teams top penalty killers.

    The shift after a kill is statistically the most likely time for an even strength goal. This is because typically the team that killed the penalty has their best players rested, and on the ice, while the opposition is resting their best players after the kill. This often leads to a 1st line 3rd line mismatch that most players feast on in the OHL where the talent gap between such lines can be huge.

    However in the case of the Knights, Marner and Dvorak aren’t available for those shifts and Tkachuk by extension is resting with them.

    I think that explains the 5 on 5 numbers to a great extent.

      • nobonusfornonus

        single sample size and it may been end of shift but two nights ago he could not catch bracco who passed off two feet from goal line to Mcinnis for a goal. now either bracco is faster than we thought especially carrying the puck or someone is slower. the contrast stood out for me cause i thought tchchuk was faster though marner almost caught bracco. love this stuff and yes it’s an insignifant sample size.

  • CMpuck

    To put the concern about Tkachuk’s even-strength production into perspective, here are the 2015 regular-season points-per-game OHL rankings for Tkachuk, Marner, and Dvorak:

    All Situations

    Tkachuk – 5
    Marner – 2
    Dvorak – 1

    5v5

    Tkachuk – 6
    Marner – 5
    Dvorak – 9

  • MatsSundin#13

    I strongly think the Leafs are going to make a hard push for Tkachuk…maybe package the pittsburgh pick and some prospects to move up and get him (or if they lose the lottery haha)

  • SEER

    Outside the top 3 I would rank (in order) Chychrun, Nylander, and Dubois ahead of selecting Tkachuk.

    Chychrun could be a Ekblad type defenseman for this team.

    Nylander is the most skilled player, even heard he is better than William.

    Dubois is the biggest of the three forwards and most complete, plays all 3 forward positions and generates points.

    • silentbob

      The hockeywriters actually did a piece like this on Alex Nylander – his point totals include a large number of secondary assists (if you only include his primary assists and goals his PPG is lower then a couple guys projected to go in the 2nd), his reliance on his teammates to be produtive, his size (which limits his puck retrival and turns him into a perimeter player) and leads him not being an offense generator but someone who feeds off of chances created by his linemates etc……

      • silentbob

        That is exactly my fear, Tkachuk is (most likely) benefitting from playing with Dvorak and Marner.

        But this argument is two sided:

        1) Dvorak and Marner are superior players so that leaves Tkachuk as the tag along (most teams find pairs that work and rotate whomever fits as a third). So naturally it would appear Marner and Dvorak carry the load and Tkachuk benefits.

        2) Tkachuk is probably a good player that often dishes to the more dangerous players he is fortunate to play with which benefits his game in close, think JVR playing with Kessel.

        As we saw this year, removing Kessel didn’t slow JVRs game, he was still as good, and maybe better, as he didn’t think to default to the better player in Kessel with the puck.

  • FlareKnight

    Yeah, there’s just a fair amount of reasons that I’m skeptical about taking Tkachuk at 4. I mean there is something to be said about being exceptional at playing with exceptional players. People do often say “just got to find that right guy to pair up with [insert elite player here].”

    But that being said….at 4th overall I just wonder.

    If you believe a number of guys are at that same tier…I’d honestly lean more to Chychrun or Dubois at 4 than Tkachuk. Chychrun giving you that potential elite D that we don’t have in the prospect system and Dubois being pretty good at center as he moved up the rankings this year.

    Positional needs aren’t everything or even the most important, but I don’t think Tkachuk outclasses those guys in skill. Thus…that’s where I’d go if we are stuck at 4.