Matthew Tkachuk Is Here to Stay

With 39-games come and gone, the Calgary Flames have made a decision to keep Matthew Tkachuk, thus burning one of eight years for his UFA (Unrestricted Free Agency) availability.

Through this stretch, Tkachuk has shown a stark ability to turn defensive possession into offensive opportunity, with a team-leading 57.8 Corsi-For percentage (CF%). Top that off with a 101.0 PDO (Save percentage+Shot percentage) the 19-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz. native is having quite the rookie campaign.

Although 101.0 could be seen as inflated due to the luck involved in Tkachuk’s 11.1 shooting percentage, his ability away from the puck is perhaps his greatest strength.

With Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, Tkachuk complements this line with sound forechecking prowess and a compete-level to match. As he pressures Dustin Byfuglien into Frolik, resulting in a shot by Dennis Wideman, the Flames thwart the zone exit, and continue their offensive zone presence.

There’s little doubt the Flames feel blessed to have had Tkachuk fall into their laps on draft day but who could have expected him to have such an enormous impact in his first campaign in the NHL?

Pugnacity, Truculence, Possession

Tkachuk in playing to his strengths has been compared to young Corey Perry as he possesses the innate ability to consistently get under his opponent’s skin.

While they share attributes, Perry represents the attitude that the Flames have longed to have in their game. A defensively responsible, offensively gifted forward with an edge is a highly sought after commodity and just what the doctor ordered.

Playing alongside veteran two-way center Backlund, Tkachuk has been able to perform freely, showcasing his quick hands and solid release.

One of the greatest attributes of the line is that their games all complement one other.  Each player is agile and speedy, making them difficult to defend.  In working with his linemates, Tkachuk forces plenty of turnovers with pressure on the puck-carrier, directly leading to offensive chances.

While certain forwards go through slumps or are still searching for their role on the team, the line of Tkachuk, Backlund and Frolik has become the Flames’ most consistent both offensively and defensively. At this point, there is little doubt that they are the de facto number one line; one to count on.

The results are a testament to the offensive structure created by first-year bench boss Glen Gulutzan. With their styles melding, the status of this line has been vaulted to the upper echelons of the depth chart.


What’s Next?

The Flames are currently in a playoff spot, and with 12 teams in the Western Conference trending in all directions, it’s a tough time for teams to be dropping points against divisional opponents. To make it to the postseason for the second time in three years, the Flames will need their other lines to step up; Sean Monahan is without a goal in his last 11-games.

While team’s around Calgary continue to either win or lose in overtime, the lack of overtime losses are coming back to haunt them. Holding 48 points in 44 games, the Flames sit fourth in the Pacific Division rivaled by the 46-point Kings, and 45-point Canucks squad. With space atop the division, as the Pacific-leading Ducks hold 54 points in 44 games, the Flames will need to continue to win in order to make it to the postseason.

There is little room for a mistake to be made.