2015-16 Team: London Knights (#7)
Date of birth: December 11th, 1997
Place of birth: Scottsdale, Arizona
Ht: 6’1″ Wt: 195 lbs
Position: Left Wing
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 1st year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking (June): 4
- Craig Button (TSN): 5
Matthew Tkachuk was one of the most talented prospects available for the 2013 OHL Draft, but slipped down to the perennial contending Knights due to fears over his steadfast commitment to Notre Dame’s hockey program. After notching an astounding 96 points with the UNTDP team in 2014-15, the American winger committed to the Knights for his draft season, adding firepower to a team that was treated to an early playoff exit the season prior.
Tkachuk immediately clicked with new linemates Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak, racing out of the gate and piling up 107 points on his way to helping the Knights to a second place finish in the OHL. His season ended with a playoff performance well worthy of considerable hardware (but playing second fiddle to an all-time performance by Marner), but nonetheless, he helped London capture both the OHL Championship and a Memorial Cup title.
Tkachuk was heralded as a potential top five draft selection from wire to wire, and he delivered on that promise by racking up 53 points in just 27 games before the Christmas break, earning a nomination to USA’s World Junior Championship squad (ahead of older standouts Kyle Connor and Conor Garland).
Tkachuk’s skating was originally an area of concern, but he worked hard to improve his game during London’s highly successful season and by the end of the season, was able to keep up with one of the fastest players in all of major junior hockey in Marner. His puck skills, tenacity in the offensive zone, and playmaking abilities were never in question, however, and led to a second place finish atop the OHL leaderboards with 77 assists. He is strong on his skates and along the boards, and is willing to go to the dirty areas of the ice and retrieve the puck for his linemates. His greatest offensive weapon is unquestionably his shot, as he has the ability to rip hard, accurate shots in the blink of an eye. He makes the opposition take notice on every shift, and his grittiness in the offensive zone is reminiscent of his father, former NHL power forward Keith Tkachuk.
Despite his vast array of skills and elite hockey sense, Tkachuk’s two biggest areas of weakness are among the concerns that are holding him back from potentially competing for a top three selection in this draft. His skating, while solid and showing good agility and balance, is still a tick slower than most other top prospects and could keep him from becoming an elite scoring threat in the NHL.
While he’s one of the smartest players in the draft and has great hockey IQ, his commitment to his own zone could stand to improve to make Tkachuk a true two-way threat. While many point to his high number of secondary assists and blindly conclude Tkachuk’s numbers were a product of his high-flying linemates, his playoff performance showed he can truly impact a game in every way and remain a threat to score even when his linemates aren’t at the top of their games.
Tkachuk proved initial scouts’ notions of his productivity and elite tools correct with a stunning rookie campaign in the OHL, and solidified his stock as a top five prospect for this draft. The weaknesses in his game that made scouts hesitant to anoint him a future NHL stud continuously improved as the season went along, and he wrapped up his season leaving no doubt as to whether or not he is one of the top players in his age group.
His shot is NHL-caliber, and with his tenacity and pro-ready game, he could become one of the first players from this draft class to reach the NHL and make a significant impact. This jack-of-all-trades winger combines good size, strength, and incredible puck skills and smarts, and if he can become a two-way threat along his current development curve, he could become an All-Star in the NHL.
NHL Draft Projection:
Tkachuk was the third member of London’s three-headed monster this season, and just missed out on the OHL’s top rookie award on account of his late 1997 birthday. His regular season production, coupled with his incredible postseason performance, only further solidified his position as a top five prospect in the draft. With few weaknesses and several teams with high picks needing high potential forward prospects, don’t expect to see Tkachuk taken outside of the top ten.
A multi-dimensional energy winger that plays a pro-style, adaptive game. Well-versed as a guy who can consistently put up points, but also as an agitator who plays with a little bit of bite and nastiness. Skates with excellent balance and speed, outclassing many in his age range. No lack of offensive instincts and knows how to score in many different ways. Confidence in his abilities and playing to the extent of his capabilities strengthens his work ethic and creativity.
Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects
Matthew, son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk, is a strong winger who plays a solid all-around game. He utilizes impressive smarts and senses to be in proper position and his dogged work ethic to capitalize on those chances. Has some quick, creative hands and a dangerous shot. Plays the game with high levels of grit and sandpaper, getting his nose dirty almost every shift. Drives the net and is relentless in the corners.
Basically, along with Marner, Dvorak – led Knights to 2016 Memorial Cup Championship. Character kid provides leadership in the form of compete level, toughness and scoring prowess on nightly basis. He is incredibly strong down low, and is extremely difficult to knock off the puck. That along with his vision and skill set will make him an elite power forward in the NHL. Great around the net and along the boards. Very good offensive upside and always dangerous around the puck. Always in good support and knows what he will do with the puck before he gets it. Needs to work at playing a more committed defensive game and improve his play at both ends of the ice. Strong skater with very good balance however his overall quickness needs work.
- Hockey IQ
- Shot – Release, power, accuracy all elite
- Playmaking ability
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Skating speed
- Commitment to defensive zone
Tkachuk alleviated concerns over his production being inflated by his all-star linemates by elevating his game to the next level in the postseason. With his elite vision, puck skills, and sturdy frame, Tkachuk is primed to be a top five selection and has all the makings of an elite top line forward in the NHL.
NHL Player(s) Comparison – Corey Perry
Risk = 1/5 Reward = 4.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive = 8.5/10 Defensive = 7/10
- 2013-2014 Under-17 World Hockey Championship Gold Medal
- 2014-2015 Under-18 World Championship Gold Medal
- 2015-2016 Memorial Cup Champion
- 2015-2016 OHL Champion
- 2015-2016 OHL First All-Star Team
- 2016 World Junior Championship Bronze Medal
Tkachuk’s overtime Memorial Cup-clinching goal
Shots From the Slot (Interesting Notes):
Despite being born in Arizona, Tkachuk played most of his minor hockey in St. Louis (most likely due to his father’s day job). While with the St. Louis AAA Blues Minor Midget Team in 2013, Tkachuk played on the same team as fellow 2016 first round draft prospect Luke Kunin and 2015 St. Louis Blues pick Luke Opilka.
THW’s The Next Ones prospect profile template design architect: Chris Ralph
Joseph Aleong is an At-Large writer for THW from Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Follow him on Twitter @josephaleong11