Brady Tkachuk’s Path to Becoming Ottawa Senators Captain

The Ottawa Senators have a new captain, and his name is Brady Tkachuk. It’s been a journey for the youngster to get to where he is at today, and it was never a guarantee that he would work out at the NHL level, let alone become the Senators’ captain. We have watched him grow into a fiery competitor, leader, and offensive weapon since he came into the NHL, and there was no one more deserving of being the first player to wear the ‘C’ on the Senators’ new jerseys.

Senators Name Tkachuk the Captain

On Friday morning, the Senators announced that Tkachuk was named the 10th captain in franchise history (from ‘The C is sewn on Brady Tkachuk’s jersey as he becomes 10th captain in Ottawa Senators history,’ Ottawa Sun, Nov 5, 2021). It has been one of the worst kept secrets in the NHL, and it was just a matter of time before he was named captain. While the team had other options, namely Thomas Chabot, it never seemed like anyone other than Tkachuk would be wearing the ‘C’ on his chest when the next captain was named. The wait is now over, and Sens fans can run to their nearest Sens Store and purchase a new jersey with number seven below the name Tkachuk with a freshly-christened ‘C’ on the chest.

Brady Tkachuk Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Brady personifies leadership,” said Senators owner and governor Eugene Melnyk. “While on the ice, he craves winning and commands respect. Off of it, he routinely sets a good example for his teammates and carries himself with a combination of confidence and dignity. He’s deserving of this next step in his career. We’re proud to bestow the honour of being the team’s 10th captain upon him.”

Tkachuk’s journey to becoming the Senators’ captain has been impressive. It wasn’t a guarantee that he would be a star when he was drafted, nor was it a guarantee that he would ever become the team’s captain. He has cemented himself into Senators history already, and at just the age of 22, his best years are still in front of him.

Tkachuk Enters the League After Falling to Senators

The 2018 NHL Entry Draft brought all kinds of interesting storylines, perhaps none more important than the Montreal Canadiens winning the third overall selection in the Draft Lottery, selecting one pick before the Sens. The Carolina Hurricanes also shot up the draft board from the 11th spot into picking second overall, leaving many Sens fans upset after being jumped twice in a year they were hoping for the number one overall pick.

Related: THW Throwback – Revisiting the 2018 NHL Draft Guide

The team with the second-best odds to win the Rasmus Dahlin sweepstakes ended up with the fourth pick, and there were questions surrounding who the team would pick if the top options were no longer available. The top two choices in the draft were Dahlin, who had been hyped up all season long, and the “fallin for Dahlin” saying became prevalent among the fan bases who had a chance at the number one pick. The second pick was projected to be Andre Svechnikov, who some scouts were pretty high on.

“If you want to know the truth,” one scout said, “Svechnikov may be closer to Dahlin for No. 1 than the rest of the field is to Svechnikov.”

Tkachuk was widely considered to be the number three prospect in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, and it seemed the Senators had missed out on the chance to draft one of the big three. At the time, there seemed to be a pretty significant drop-off after the big three were off the board. Names like Filip Zadina, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Noah Dobson, and Quinn Hughes would be among the Senators’ options, and while there were some good players in there, they weren’t what the Senators were hoping for after having the second-best odds to win the lottery.

As the draft got closer, rumours began to swirl that Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens were cooking something interesting behind the scenes. Rumblings surrounding who they would be picking were making headlines, and it wasn’t one of the top three available players. With a massive need for a centreman, Kotkaniemi’s name came up time and time again. A player who had surged up the rankings during the season was who the Canadiens ended up taking, leaving Tkachuk available for the Senators with the fourth pick.

Boston University forward Brady Tkachuk
Boston University forward Brady Tkachuk (Rich Gagnon/Boston University)

The Sens would go on to spend the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft on Tkachuk, but it’s hard to imagine they thought he would become what he has already in his career. The pick drew some skepticism from some who wanted to see Zadina picked, but hindsight is always 20/20. If you asked those people today if the Sens got the pick right, the answer would be a resounding yes. We didn’t know it yet, but this pick would turn out to be one of the most important in the team’s history.

Big Trades Shake Senators Core

It seems like forever ago that the Senators appeared in the Eastern Conference Final in 2017, a series they eventually lost in heartbreaking fashion against the eventual champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. All was looking good for the team who had star players all over the ice, including Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, and Ottawa legend Jean-Gabriel Pageau. At the time, Karlsson was already the team’s captain, and it seemed like nothing was going to change that for a long time.

Erik Karlsson
[photo: Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers]

As the Senators looked to bolster their roster and take a serious run at Lord Stanley’s Cup, the trade rumours swirled. Atop the trade bait board for many months was Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene. The Senators were among the suitors, and after a solid start to the season, they swung a deal to acquire the thought-to-be star in exchange for Kyle Turris, Shane Bowers, Andrew Hammond, and a couple of draft picks. After the trade, things began to go downhill for the Senators, and they would ultimately end up with the fourth overall pick, the pick they used on Tkachuk.

Related: Matt Duchene Trade Analyzed

The offseason of 2018 was an interesting time for the Senators. Rumours swirled about their captain and tensions with a teammate, who was no longer with the team. With Karlsson’s contract for the future uncertain, the Senators decided to pull the trigger on a trade that sent Karlsson to San Jose for a large haul. The trade saw Chris Tierney, Rudolphs Balcers, Dylan Demelo, Josh Norris, and an unprotected first-round pick that would turn out to be Tim Stützle. Although the return was huge, their captain and franchise defenceman was no longer with the team, and that wouldn’t be the end of the moves.

On Feb 22, 2019, the Senators decided to part ways with another one of their stars, this time it was Duchene. His stint in Ottawa was far from what the club and player had expected, and with his contract coming to an end at the conclusion of the season, the team decided they couldn’t risk losing him to free agency and traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The return wasn’t great with Vitaly Abramov, Jonathan Davidsson, and a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft coming back. But after losing their first-round pick in the first Duchene trade, they recouped their assets and selected Lassi Thomson, who has still yet to play an NHL game.

After the Karlsson trade, many considered Stone to be the next choice for captain, but that too was short-lived before the Senators traded him to the Vegas Golden Knights. Ottawa sent Stone, alongside Tobias Lindberg, to Vegas, while the Senators got Erik Brannstrom, Oscar Lindberg, and a second-round pick in 2020 back in return. It was like a punch in the gut for Senators fans. All of their favourite players or recognizable faces on the team were shipped away for players no one had really ever heard of. The team felt somewhat foreign, and there was no clear leader.

Ottawa Senators Mark Stone
Former Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone celebrates (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

It continued down the list. Fans began suggesting Pageau as the team’s next captain, but he’d end up getting traded to the New York Islanders. The return was again a touch interesting, considering the uncertainty surrounding a first and second-round pick. In hindsight, the trade looks decent, as the Senators drafted Ridley Grieg with the first-round pick and used the second-round pick to move up in the draft and select Tyler Klevin. Even with the good fortune at the draft, all of the recognizable faces who could or should have been the captain were gone.

The door was pounded, hit multiple times with a fireman’s axe, and beat down, leaving a wide-open gap for a young player to step up and assert themself as a leader for the Sens. One of their young players were destined to become the next captain, and while it was still some time away, it was coming.

Tkachuk Solidifies Himself as a Leader

Despite some mixed reactions in the fan base when the Senators drafted Tkachuk, he quickly changed the minds of his doubters when he burst onto the scene in his rookie season in 2018-19. He finished the season having played 71 games, totaling 22 goals and 23 assists for 45 points, a total that still stands as his career-high. Tkachuk quickly became a fan-favourite and provided some hope in what seemed like the dark ages for the proud franchise.

Garret Sparks Brady Tkachuk Morgan Rielly
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Garret Sparks makes save as Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk and Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly look on (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand)

His second season in the NHL was once again impressive and produced very similar numbers to his rookie season. He played the same amount of games and recorded the same amount of assists, but scored one less goal, finishing the season with 44 points. He continued on the momentum he build in his rookie season and was once again a bright spot on the Senators in a season that would be interrupted by COVID-19.

Before the shortened season in the NHL’s new North Division, Tkachuk was named the alternate captain, wearing the ‘A’ alongside Chabot and Erik Gudbranson. Once again, he would have a good season, even with the numbers being down, but considering the season was only 56 games, you can’t pay too much attention to that. He scored 17 goals and added 19 assists as the Sens just missed out on the playoffs. By this point, Tkachuk had proven himself to be a leader, and fans had been calling for him to be the team’s captain for some time. It was down to either Tkachuk or Chabot, and it was just a matter of time before one of them was named the 10th captain in franchise history.

Tkachuk’s Contract Situation

Heading into the 2021 offseason, the Senators needed to get one thing done: sign Tkachuk to a contract extension. This proved to be a touch more complicated than anyone could have hoped. The two sides couldn’t come to an agreement before training camp, with reports suggesting Tkachuk wanted a shorter contract or perhaps more bonus money than the Senators felt comfortable with forking over (from ‘GARRIOCH: Ottawa Senators, Brady Tkachuk still trying to bridge gap in contract talks,’ Ottawa Sun, Sep 27, 2021).

Brady Tkachuk Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The negotiations crept into the regular season, but finally, Tkachuk and the Senators agreed on a new contract that would keep their young star in the nation’s capital for a long time. Tkachuk inked a seven-year, $57.5 million contract. The contract carries an annual average value of $8.2 million and includes a no-move clause in its final three years.

When Tkachuk was announced to the crowd at the Senators’ home opener, he was met with thunderous applause and celebration as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s entrance music played. It was one of those moments that people won’t forget. It was a sign of commitment from the ownership and faith that better times were coming. After the game, Tkachuk was met with a massive hug from Chabot, and it was clear that there was no competition between the two over the captaincy. They were just happy to be back playing hockey on the same team.

When Tkachuk did eventually end up hitting the ice against the San Jose Sharks, he was wearing the alternate ‘A’ that he wore in 2020-21. It wasn’t until recently that the Senators decided to give him the upgrade, but it certainly looks good on the young star’s chest. It wasn’t an easy journey to get where he is today, and things had to get really bad before they got any better. There’s still a long way to go before the Senators are contending for championships again, but they are going in the right direction.

The Right Choice

Despite having a couple of different options for the team’s 10th captain in franchise history over the years, there wasn’t a better choice than Tkachuk. When picking a captain, it’s more than just your best player. You need to pick a leader in the locker room, a player who represents what the team is all about, and perhaps most importantly, a player that is marketable and resonates with the fan base. Tkachuk is exactly that, and while Chabot would have also been a good choice, Tkachuk is the player this franchise has so desperately needed for many years.

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