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
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
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.
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
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.
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
“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
“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.”
“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.
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.