2016 NHL Draft: Knights’ Tkachuk has had little problem adjusting to OHL grind

By Jason Menard

Matthew Tkachuk - Team USA - 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship

Photo: London Knights forward and 2016 prospect Matthew Tkachuk (#7) represented the USA at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, posting 11 points in 7 games for the bronze medal winners (courtesy of RONI REKOMAA/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Tkachuk may not want to play the comparison game, but it is a fact of life when your father is arguably one of the top American players to ever lace up skates. Again, it is something that Tkachuk said he doesn’t consider, although he admits it has been a regular theme in his development.

“It’s something that I’ve dealt with my whole life,” Tkachuk said. “You deal with scrutiny and you deal with comparisons. It’s all part of the game and it’s all part of how I was brought up.

“I can’t control that; all I can control is how I play the game.”

Hunter, who knows a little something about the subject himself, said that bloodlines play a role, but are not the ultimate indicator of success.

“It’s more something that you can have a bit of a measuring stick,” Hunter explained. “When you look at him, you see a lot of his dad, so you can kind of see where he plays, where someone who doesn’t have that you’re left saying, ‘Well, he kind of looks like that kind of player.’

“I wouldn’t say it’s a be-all-and-end-all, but if they had bloodlines it counts for something.”

Keith Tkachuk was drafted 19th overall and finished his career with 538 goals and 1,065 points in 1,201 regular season games. He added 56 points in 89 playoff games. The younger Tkachuk insists he is not looking to ‘out-draft’ his dad – even in a friendly way – because he realizes what kind of player his father really was.

“Even though he got drafted 19th, he’s probably in the top three of that draft class,” Tkachuk said. “That’s something I want to do — not only be one of the best in my draft class, but be one of the best in the game.

“If I had the career he did, it would be the best, but right now I’m just focusing up on finishing the year here in London and helping this team win the Memorial Cup.”

Tkachuk calls St. Louis, MO home – which, until recently, so too did the NFL’s Rams. Tkachuk lamented the loss of the football team.

“Yeah. I mean it sucks. But I guess it’s for the best,” he said. “They weren’t having the greatest seasons in St. Louis and I know the fans really cared, but it’s one of those things where [the fans] can’t control it because the rest of the owners that picked them to move.”

But Tkachuk’s focus isn’t on the gridiron – it is on the ice. And in particular, taking the steps to get to where his father got – the NHL. He is approaching his development and the identification of what he needs to improve with a very specific focus.

“Just be more of a pro,” he said. “If I want to make the NHL in the next couple of years, then there are many things I need to focus on: speed, strength, keeping my skills intact and not dropping off. I want to get quicker and I want to get stronger.”

Hunter said while he sees Matthew’s father in him, he also makes a comparison to a player with whom he is extremely familiar – a teammate on the London Knights from the 2001-02 to 2004-05 season. A teammate who was also a first round NHL Draft pick.

A player named Corey Perry.

“Like any young player, [Tkachuk] can always improve on his d-zone. His instincts are very, very good, but he’s an offensive guy,” Hunter said. “He has that ability to turn himself into a Corey Perry-type player, where [in the OHL] he was offensive, but he knew how to play.

“And up there he turned himself into… well, an offensive juggernaut, but one that could play D as well. I think [Tkachuk] has the ability to do that. We don’t have to call on him as much to do that, but it’s something that he will learn and apply pretty easily.”

Follow Jason Menard on Twitter via @JayCMenard

 

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