Friday, November 6, 2015

2016 NHL Draft Preview: Matthew Tkachuk

Welcome back as we take a look at another draft-eligible player this year. Thanks for your patience as it usually takes a little while for me to make these posts.

Today we look at:

Matthew Tkachuk
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 194 lbs
Position: LW
Shoots: Left
Team (League): London Knights (Ontario Hockey League)
ISS rank: 4
CSS rank: A (no rankings released)
FC rank: 5
THN rank: NA
DTJ rank: 7

Current Statline for 2015-2016 Season:  15 GP, 5G 19A 24P 14PIM, +15, 1.6 Points/Game

Hailing from Saint Louis, Missouri, comes the son of NHLer Keith Tkachuk, Matthew. Currently third overall in scoring for the OHL, and especially leading his team full of well-established players like Dvorak and Marner is no easy task. Consider that and also take into consideration how Tkachuk came in second in total scoring in last year's USNDP, only to Auston Matthews and you can begin to see the offensive potential for this young man.

Obviously his NHL bloodlines play a key part in the type of player he is, in terms of "hockey IQ", and you can see how well he reads the ice when he plays. He's able to make some very subtle, intricate passes that help proceed the team's attack. Of course not every pass he makes are slight, but he always seems to find the open ice with his passes. And it's clear to see that Matthew does take after his father's style of play as well, but I will get to that a little later on.

Matthew Tkachuk is another name to add on to the list of high-powered scoring wingers in this draft class, and additionally he's up there with the elite American talent featured in this draft. Tkachuk signed with the London Knights right around the same time as fellow American 2016 draft-eligible winger, Max Jones (who's also projected as a Top 10 pick). I will write about Jones in another report, but what we can see from this is that the London Knights never cease to produce high-end talent from Corey Perry to Patrick Kane, from Max Domi to Bo Horvat to 
Olli Määttä...the elite talent from London continues to pour out, and the newest addition of elite talent from London will continue with Matthew Tkachuk.

So what kind of a player is Matthew? At the risk of sounding cliche, I think the best way to describe him is "complete". Not as physically punishing as his father, but just as willing to play physical when need be and to engage in the "dirty" areas of the ice. The thing that stands out to me about Tkachuk's game, besides his lack of weaknesses, is his patience with the puck when making a play. While he does possess a solid, heavy shot with a rather deceptive release, Tkachuk's game is predominantly based around playmaking and setting up teammates.

While not a weakness, an area for improvement for Tkachuk would be his skating. He's made some significant strides (pun not intended) since last season improving his previously choppy skating to a rather powerful stride. He still has plenty of room for improvement, but he has keeping his own against the more agile players in the league.

He plays the majority of his game below the face-off dots, and will continue his scoring campaign through the OHL this season.

In terms of projection, I believe Tkachuk has a top-line elite LW ceiling, and the floor of a top-9 LW. If his offense does not translate entirely to the NHL, then Tkachuk's physicality, smart play, and continually improving skating will keep him in the NHL. I do strongly believe though that Tkachuk will have a strong offensive contribution to whichever team drafts him.

From a Devils' perspective, we don't exactly quite know where the Devils will pick in the next draft in June, mainly from the pleasantly surprising run recently...but if the Devils were to pick in the same range as last season (#6 overall,...and that means not winning any of the top-3 lottery picks), then I really do think Tkachuk will be their selection. This is not taking into consideration the bloodlines that Tkachuk shares, being cousins with Tom Fitzgerald, the current Assistant GM for the Devils, but I'm not suggesting my belief that they will pick him is because of that. I believe he will be the selection because of two main elements. First is his elite offensive ceiling and that the Devils are in need of high-potential top-6 winger prospects. The second is more of the style of play that Tkachuk exhibits. As mentioned earlier he has an excellent shot, and can score in a variety of ways, but the emphasis of his game revolves around setting-up scorers and finding the open space to pass to scorers. From Pavel Zacha's development, we've seen him turn into an astounding goal-scoring threat, and while Zacha is able to make incredible passes tape-to-tape, he is more of a trigger-man than a set-up. I think if we're looking at projections, then Tkachuk would be the perfect player to compliment Zacha on the Devils' top line...but that's some speculation at this point.

Venturing back into reality, I believe Tkachuk will be taken within the 5-9 range. He may be able to make the jump to the NHL after his selection, but I think he will have to continue working on his skating for another year in London.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how Tkachuk's career progresses in London, and eventually in the NHL. I think we will see a strong increase in his goal scoring within the next few months, as he really has quite the arsenal of offensive weapons. I don't really have a specific player style comparison for Tkachuk, but rather he is the embodiment of a pure power forward prospect.
I hope you enjoyed my write-up of Matthew Tkachuk!If you have any feedback, suggestions, or players you’d like to see my write about, please let me know!

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