The Ottawa Senators are about to get back a big piece of their lineup, as Brady Tkachuk is set to return to action tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights. Tkachuk has been activated from injured reserve, while Jack Rodewald has been sent back to the minor leagues to make room on the roster. Tkachuk last played on October 15th against the Dallas Stars, before tearing a ligament in his leg and ending up on the shelf. The young forward has just four games under his belt, meaning he can play another five before the Senators must decide whether to keep him around and burn the first year of his entry-level contract.
Tkachuk, the fourth overall pick from this June, started his NHL career with a bang by scoring six points in those first four games. His size and demeanor have given the Senators a bit of swagger when he’s in the lineup, as he’s willing to engage physically (and perhaps verbally as well) with anyone on the ice. While his brother Matthew Tkachuk is off to an outstanding start with the Calgary Flames—19 points in 16 games has him on track to shatter his previous high of 49—the younger Senators forward is trying to prove he’s ready for the NHL without any more development.
Since deciding to leave Boston University after just one season and sign with the Senators, there has been much debate over where he should spend the 2018-19 season. The 19-year old is eligible to go to the Belleville Senators of the AHL, but also could head down the highway to the London Knights of the OHL. That program is notorious for developing high end NHL stars—including his brother—and is beginning to look like a powerhouse destined for the Memorial Cup once again after both Evan Bouchard and Alex Formenton were returned from their respective NHL organizations—the latter in fact being Ottawa. If the Senators felt like winning a championship was important to Tkachuk’s development, sending him to London would certainly give him the best opportunity.
That opportunity may not be as important as what he could accomplish in the NHL though, as his early performance indicated. Getting his feet under him at the highest level and finding success on a team that is nowhere near as pathetic as some prognosticators expected could have huge dividends down the road when the Senators are ready to really compete for the playoffs once again. For an example the team needs to look no further than Thomas Chabot, who struggled at times last season on a poor Senators team but has started this year at a Norris-level pace with 20 points in his first 15 games. Chabot’s familiarity with the NHL is certainly an important part of that explosion, something he may not have felt had he spent 2017-18 in the minor leagues.