The Winnipeg Jets at the Draft: Matthew Tkachuk

Another Tkachuk wearing a Winnipeg Jets jersey seems somehow fitting, almost providential, and it’s closer to being reality than you might think.

So here’s the (so far hypothetical but entirely plausible) scenario: the draft lottery happens and, to the relief of the hockey world, the Edmonton Oilers do not win. They do, however, get the third or fourth overall pick, and a shot at another great player to help rebuild their franchise. The Jets get the fifth overall pick, which seems likely, as the standings as of April 3 indicate they would.

The Oilers weigh the options available to them, which are varied and exciting, until draft day rolls around. Tempted as they are by another premier forward, the Oilers recognize the organizational need on defense, see stud defenseman Jakob Chychrun still on the board, and scoop him up, solidifying their future on the left side on the back end for years to come.

It’s a pretty good scenario for Oilers fans, who would no doubt be happy with Chychrun, but it’s a good one for Jets fans too, because they get a chance to draft Matthew Tkachuk.

The long and short of this scenario is this: one of the big four forwards in this draft (those being Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujärvi and Tkachuk) is going to fall out of the top four if the Oilers go for need and draft Chychrun. With the Jets likely drafting just outside the top four, this means one of those four falls into their lap, and if respected scouts are to be believed, Tkachuk is the most likely to do so.

Taking After Dad

Tkachuk is a big, strong forward with a nose for the net, a willingness to go to the dirty areas and a penchant for scoring goals in tight. He’s willing to mix it up physically, hit and agitate, and while many of his goals will come right near the blue paint he also possesses a heavy shot that he can use from just about anywhere. He is the master of the tip in, and in many ways is a typical power forward.

Now, did I just describe Matthew Tkachuk, or Keith? Well, both as it turns out.

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Yes, the comparisons to Keith are inevitable, but Matthew does nothing to dispel them with his play. Elite Hockey Prospects described him as a well-rounded player who “can consistently put up points” and also “an agitator who plays with bite and nastiness.” Yes, this description smacks more than a little bit of Keith.

For Jets fans, that’s not exactly bad news. Tkachuk, the elder, put up two 50-goal seasons and two 40-goal seasons (one of each with the Jets) and had over 500 goals in an illustrious NHL career. He was one of the most offensively prolific of the original Jets in their twilight years, and played a robust physical game as well.

That Matthew shares these elements of his father’s game will be a boon to whoever drafts him. I confess, I was too young to ever see Keith Tkachuk in a Winnipeg Jets jersey, but I remember him as a St. Louis Blues forward, and if the Jets can land that type of player on draft day, there should be no hesitation.

Solving the Right Problem

As has been mentioned here and elsewhere, the Jets had a bit of a goal-scoring problem this season. Bryan Little returning to health will go a long way, and the addition of Kyle Connor into the lineup will help as well, whether in 2016 or beyond. Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers are clicking together as a unit, yet for all that offense is still a concern, as is depth up front.

Tkachuk would go a long way toward solving this. His stats line would seem to indicate he’s a good setup man (hard not to be when you have Christian Dvorak and Mitch Marner to pass to) but watching him play indicates to me he’s a capable scorer on his own. He gets his goals the hard way most of the time, and he gets a lot of them.

The Jets’ current top line of Ehlers-Scheifele-Wheeler looks like a future powerhouse, but the rest of the forward corps is something of a tire fire right now. Imagine a second line in Winnipeg of Kyle Connor-Bryan Little-Matthew Tkachuk for years to come. Suddenly the Jets’ offensive future looks a lot brighter.

Tkachuk shares many qualities with his father, and with recently departed Jets captain Andrew Ladd. Tkachuk brings the kind of offensive prowess the Jets need to ignite a roster teeming with potential, but so far with nothing to show for it. Like his father before him, Matthew could be just what the doctor ordered in Winnipeg.

We don’t know how the draft lottery will shake out yet. Even if to goes exactly as I outlined above, there’s no guarantee Edmonton or Winnipeg will draft the way I suggested. Both teams have surprised their fanbases on draft day before (see: Scheifele, Mark). I say I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets took Tkachuk with that pick, but that may be the wish fathering the thought.

After all, the Jets would be extremely lucky to see another Tkachuk pull on their sweater. Maybe Ben Chiarot will be nice enough to let the kid have dad’s No. 7.