The NHL draft is now less than a week away with the first round set for this Friday. Over the next several days, we will be taking a closer look at the prospects who will hear their name called early on Friday night.
Position: Left Wing
Birthdate: December 11, 1997
Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona
Weight: 200 lbs
Tkachuk’s debut season in major junior was nothing short of great. He was part of the OHL champion London Knights and skated on their top line with Toronto prospect Mitch Marner and Arizona prospect Christian Dvorak. Tkachuk tied for the second most assists in the league and finished fifth overall in points, the best among any draft eligible prospect. He also finished second in postseason scoring, collecting an impressive 40 points (20 goals and 20 assists) in just 18 games.
He also suited up for Team USA at the World Junior Championships, finishing tied for the team lead in scoring with projected first overall pick Auston Matthews. As the Knights won the OHL title, Tkachuk was also able to suit up in the Memorial Cup, scoring the tournament winning goal in overtime against Rouyn-Noranda.
London: 57 GP, 30 goals, 77 assists, 107 points, 80 PIMS, +45 rating
WJC’s: 7 GP, 4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points, 6 PIMS, +7 rating
Memorial Cup: 4 GP, 5 goals, 3 assists, 8 points, 4 PIMS, +8 rating
Tkachuk is a very well-rounded offensive winger. He’s an elite passer who sees the ice extremely well while his shot, though not used as often in London, is also above average. Skating is an area that needs improvement – it’s not a weakness but he’s not as strong a skater as some of the other top prospects in this draft class. He’s also highly above average at protecting the puck and is quite effective at working the cycle game.
On the defensive side, he’s a work in progress. He’s capable of making the right reads but his commitment to doing so tends to waver. Part of that is a by-product on being part of an elite offensive team that could score their way out of trouble so that’s something he should improve on over time. Physically, he’s strong enough to cover bigger forwards down low and along the boards in his own zone and can use his strength to create turnovers.
One of Tkachuk’s biggest strengths is his willingness and ability to get to the high traffic areas. He has no problems taking a hit to make a play or deflect a shot and is strong enough to withstand the physical pounding for doing so. He sometimes gets a little too involved in the rough stuff which is something he’ll need to improve on over time as well.
Projected Future Role
Front line power winger.
Physically, Tkachuk is ready to step into an NHL lineup right away. However, his skating and defensive zone play needs to be improved before he can really become a top player at the pro level. It’s feasible to think he’ll spend most of this season at the junior level before making a run at a full-time roster spot in 2017-18.