With 74 points to his name through 115 appearances on NHL ice, young Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk has established himself as a bona fide big-league star.
However, it’s fair to assume the 20-year-old would be just as big a name in Calgary without all those points, given that he seems to galvanize the Flames faithful with his ability to agitate the opposition just as often as he does with his offence.
That double-edged skill set brought a team-leading 105 penalty minutes for the young gun last season. In year two, however, he’s found a more balanced approach, allowing him to put up points at a higher pace while taking fewer penalties per night.
“I’ve talked to some of the guys on our team, watching some of my games early on and critiquing what I can do to not put my team in too many holes,” Tkachuk told Scott Oake and Louie DeBrusk during After Hours on Saturday. “Right now I feel like when I’m playing my best I’m not being too stupid, I’m being pretty disciplined.
“The biggest side of my game is the offensive side of the game, and you don’t want to take away from that.”
That on-ice balance is only part of the young American’s well-rounded approach to being an NHLer, however.
Though his already hefty record of suspensions and his penchant for feuding with many an opposing star might lead some to believe Tkachuk is lacking in respect, his off-ice demeanour suggests otherwise.
And he credits his dad, former NHL star Keith Tkachuk, for instilling in him the importance of acting with class off the ice.
“I’m an 18-year-old kid playing with guys like Mark Giordano, Matt Stajan, Troy Brouwer, guys that are almost 15 years older. The thing I was worried about coming in is ‘How am I going to fit in with the team?'” Tkachuk said. “I was pretty comfortable coming into a new locker room just from what I saw at a young age. I saw the way my dad treated people—the trainers, his teammates when he played. Talking with him a lot, he really stressed that to me.
“When I talk to him it’s the two things he always brings up: compete and be a good teammate. Treat everybody equal, whether it’s trainers, coaches, players, and that was one thing I really tried to emphasize when I came in last year.”
Listen to Tkachuk’s full interview with Oake and DeBrusk in the video at the top of this post.