Film Room: Senators rookie Brady Tkachuk has his father's qualities
Just 21 games into his NHL career, Brady Tkachuk is drawing comparisons to another talented but truculent winger - one he knows quite well.
Brady's father, Keith, potted 538 goals in parts of 18 NHL seasons and was as well-known for his physical play as he was for his scoring prowess. And there are plenty of similarities between father and son that go beyond the No. 7 jersey they share: Brady willingly parks himself in front of the net, pounces on any opportunity or loose puck he sees, and doesn't hesitate to mouth off to anyone who gets in his way.
The 19-year-old's overall game seems more suited for his father's era when the power forward role was far more prevalent, but with nine goals and 16 points in 21 games so far, whatever he's doing is working just fine in 2018.
Prior to being selected fourth overall by the Ottawa Senators this past summer, scouting reports on Tkachuk noted he was a fixture around the net even when he didn't have the puck. And that remains the case with the Senators. He excels at reading the play and knows the ideal time to head to the goal, as shown below in a game against the Florida Panthers:
As the primary trailer, Tkachuk swoops in unchecked and converts a Mark Stone rebound, taking advantage of a gap in coverage between Panthers defenseman Alexander Petrovic - who overskates the loose puck - and forward Mike Hoffman.
Despite having a nose for the net to rival his famous father, Brady was criticized for his weak skating prior to the draft. It's still a valid complaint at times. Although he has good speed when he gets going, his first step still lacks that explosiveness exhibited by the better skaters in the league - for example, his teammate Thomas Chabot. Tkachuk would be well-served to make that an area of focus this offseason.
That said, Tkachuk's skating has improved during his brief NHL career, though that has more to do with tenacity than physical ability:
Here, Tkachuk kicks off the rush by leaving the puck for teammate Maxime Lajoie. Recognizing the opportunity to create an odd-man rush, Tkachuk barrels to the Philadelphia Flyers' blue line ahead of the play; once the puck crosses, he immediately heads for an opening to the right of the puck-carrier. The pass misses Tkachuk, but this clip still serves as a good example of what he does best. He's not a fast or fancy skater, but he knows where to be.
The 19-year-old has proven his worth on offense despite entering Wednesday mired in a seven-game point drought. The underlying metrics suggest a bounce back is inevitable; 12 of his 16 points (including seven of his nine goals) have come at even strength, while he has just four secondary assists. Advanced stats like him, too: According to Corsica, at even strength, Tkachuk's primary points per 60 minutes of play currently sits at 1.91. In all situations, his primary P/60 is 2.95. That's good, particularly when you consider the majority of his shifts begin in the defensive zone.
More significantly, Tkachuk has made an impact even when he's not racking up the points. He ranks fifth among first-year players in hits with 52 and, despite weighing under 200 lbs, is happy to tangle with foes big or small. Here's an example that would make dad proud:
At the moment, his predilection for provoking opponents isn't a problem. According to Evolving Hockey, Tkachuk is even on major penalties taken and drawn and has only taken one more minor penalty than he's drawn. So he isn't making himself a liability ... yet.
That said, it would be wise for him to steer clear of his dad's example - Keith racked up more than 2,200 career penalty minutes - and instead mimic his brother Matthew, a winger for the Calgary Flames. At one point during the 2017-18 season, Matthew had the most minor penalties drawn in the NHL over a 13-month span.
The Senators would love to see Brady become that type of player. Ottawa ranks last in five-on-five shot-attempt differential (minus-457) by a significant margin but is a respectable 12th in power-play success rate (21.8 percent) while seeing the ninth-most power-play time in the league (170:16). The ability to draw more penalties might earn Tkachuk more time with the man advantage - he's at 2:14 per game at the moment, good for 10th on the team.
But Tkachuk's contentious - and irritating - moments are both a signifier and byproduct of the tenacious, relentless nature that drives him. And that isn't about to change, especially when it leads to results like this:
Here, Tkachuk has his stick knocked out of his hands by Flyers captain Claude Giroux. He retrieves it without hesitation, spots his opportunity, and redirects the puck for the game-tying goal.
Tkachuk has shown signs he'll soon be ready to lead the next generation of power forwards. And if his skating improves, along with his discipline, he could very well wind up with the best resume in the family.
Hannah Stuart keeps a close eye on both drafted and draft-eligible prospects and can usually be found trying to learn more about hockey analytics. She has previously written for FanRag Sports, The Hockey Writers, and Hooked On Hockey Magazine, and can also be found at High Heels and High Sticks. Find her on Twitter @HockeyWthHannah.
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