WASHINGTON, D.C. – The brother-versus-brother mini sticks games would break out in the wives’ room after the game as Matthew and Brady Tkachuk would wait for their father, Keith, to change out of St. Louis Blues uniform.
“The wives were just hanging out, talking to one another. We’d get a two-on-two game going. I got hit from behind once, and I think we fought after that. You just take it,” says Brady, holding court with a few reporters inside Washington’s Capital One Arena.
“Oh, yeah. There’s a bunch of fights, and a bunch of witnesses to those. We were in the locker room doing it, the wives’ room, when my dad was playing. We’d always fight but make up five minutes after that.”
Brady, 18, may be two draft years younger, but he figures his older brother is lucky they didn’t come to blows as recently as Mother’s Day, when a one-on-one basketball showdown started getting too physical. And neither lets a bell go unanswered.
“We were always competing in everything we do — roller hockey outside, mini sticks, basketball,” Brady says. “We did one workout together and gradually, on the bike, we got faster and faster. We were comparing numbers. We push ourselves, and we push each other. We do that wherever we go.
“My family thinks I’m tougher than him, and Matthew’s not messing with me anymore.”
In 18 days, Brady’s unique ferocity and confidence could become the property of the Montreal Canadiens or Ottawa Senators. The Boston University freshman was ranked second among all North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting’s final prospect ranking, and several experts’ mock drafts have him going in the top five.
Over the weekend, he interviewed with the clubs at the Combine in Buffalo, and Sens general manager Pierre Dorion is bringing the power forward to Ottawa next week for further testing.
“I’ve done a little research on both [Montreal and Ottawa]. I obviously don’t know until it happens. I’ll try to go day by day and just enjoy it leading up to the draft,” Brady says. “It’s an NHL city, to be honest with you. Doesn’t matter to me.”
Brady has also pondered the idea of joining BU coach David Quinn, who also graduated to the big league and is now the head coach of the Rangers.
“It’d be awesome. He was a great a great coach and a great person too. It’s an Original Six team, and it’s New York,” says Brady. The Tkachuks will be rolling deep into Dallas on June 22, when his future will be unveiled.
“We got 95 tickets for Friday,” Brady says. “A whole section. It’s going to be a big crew. I think all of St. Louis is coming.”
Because the kid is as massive as he is nasty — 6-foot-3, 196 pounds — he had become accustomed to taking the puck from his opponents at will, winning all the corner battles at the U.S. development program. Jumping to the NCAA, where he was forced to compete against big-bodied defencemen, many of them five years older, which meant Brady had to adjust.
He needed to use his brain as much as his brawn to put up 31 points and a plus-15 rating (plus 61 penalty minutes) in 40 games.
“It was a tough start,” Brady says. “I definitely became a more well-rounded player. I focused more on my defensive play and how good defence leads to good offence. I felt I was getting stronger over the year.”
So strong, Brady wowed scouts in Buffalo over the weekend when he pumped 11 pull-ups — which led to some wonderful tweets from a pair of Calgary Flames. Matt didn’t test during his combine due to a sprained ankle, but Brady says “he’d be in the five to six range, maybe.”
Absolutely not… https://t.co/vUF6bRHsm9
— Matthew Tkachuk (@TKACHUKycheese_) June 2, 2018
— Sam Bennett (@SBennett93) June 3, 2018
Earlier this year, we asked Matthew for a scouting report on his sibling: big guy, good skater, play maker, sneaky with takeaways, dangerous around the net.
“He’s a lot bigger than me. He’s a lot faster than me,” Matthew says. “He’s that dual threat where he can beat you with speed and power.”
Brady says Matthew is just pumping his tires.
“He’s a great player himself, but that’s what I’m striving to be—to get to his level or maybe above,” Brady says. He prides himself on physicality and competitiveness, but believes his grit has left his talent underrated.
“I have one of the best skill sets in the draft. I can definitely beat a D wide with my speed and skills too.”
Asked whom he compares his game to, Brady names Auston Matthews, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. He grew up playing centre, switched to left wing with the United States National Development Team, then took shifts at right wing with BU and is confident at any position.
Meet the kid, and it’s only natural he was named captain of the gold-winning U-18 national team in 2017 or delivered a classic shootout goal, outdoors, under the falling snow for bronze-winning Team USA at the 2018 world junior championships.
“I say to myself: ‘Big-time players score big-time goals at big-time moments.’ So I thrive in those games. I enjoy a high-pressure game. That’s how I play: fast, physical, and I’m not afraid to show up in those type of moments.”
A big one will be the first time Brady and Matthew do battle as NHLers. We wouldn’t blame their mom, Chantal, if she has wives’ room flashbacks.
“I don’t know what she’s going to be like if Matt and I play against each other. I definitely know she’ll be pretty stressed,” Brady says. “I think she’s getting even more stressed because Matthew’s gaining a reputation.”
Considering elevating those old mini sticks battles to the big stage, Brady admits the more creative Matthew would be wittier with the trash talk.
“I feel he’d be a good chirper, but I can be more physical with him,” says Brady. A devilish smile flashes as he thinks about his brother’s rep for ticking off superstars.
“I wouldn’t say he’s a pest around the house, but he’s an aggravator. That’s what our extended family calls him. He’s such a great guy, and we’re really close, so I kinda love seeing it, because I like to be the same way.”
Brady Tkachuk! #NHLCombine #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/arHaWz1C3r
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) June 2, 2018