Since everybody is already aware of who his dad and brother are, Brady Tkachuk may be the best-known prospect in this year’s draft because everyone was familiar with his surname – and what it represents, hockey-wise – before top-ranked Rasmus Dahlin became recognized beyond draft circles.
The Tkachuk name has helped Brady immensely, so it is ironic that the rambunctious winger (would you expect anything less from Matthew’s brother?) from Boston University is also one of the most debated prospects in the 2018 draft.
There’s no issue about whether he has the game to succeed in the NHL. He has too much size, skill, toughness and pedigree to miss completely. The question is whether Brady Tkachuk is as good as Matthew, the power forward selected sixth overall in the 2016 draft who has already logged 144 games and 97 points for the Calgary Flames, or whether little bro’s status as a top-five prospect has been inflated by big brother’s immediate success.
Of course, a lot of people figure Brady will be even better than Matthew.
“He has a little more finesse to his game,” NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr said. “Matthew and their dad could go right through the door at you, but Brady may be a little more deceptive with his skill set. But he still has the same drive and tenacity that drives him to the net — except he can also get there with an end-to-end rush.”
Team: Boston University
From: St. Louis, MO
Weight: 196 pounds
TKACHUK VS. TKACHUK
What makes a straight-up comparison between the two Tkachuk brothers tricky is that they took different paths to the draft.
Matthew left the U.S. under-18 program to spend his draft season in junior hockey with the London Knights, where he was a scoring machine with 30 goals and 107 points in 57 games. Brady, however, chose to follow his father to Boston University, where as a Hockey East freshman this season he posted eight goals and 31 points in 40 games. For what it’s worth, back in 1990-91 after the Winnipeg Jets drafted him 19th overall, Keith Tkachuk had 17 goals and 40 points in 36 games for BU. And after that, he merely scored 538 goals in 1,201 NHL games while accumulating 2,219 penalty minutes.
But both Tkachuk boys spent their draft-minus-one season on the U.S. national under-18 team, where Matthew significantly outscored Brady, averaging 1.46 points-per-game (95 points in 65 games) versus his younger brother’s 0.89 PPG (54 in 61).
What no one disputes is that Brady, although perhaps slightly more refined as an 18-year-old, is every bit as tough as Matthew. He plays a physical, “heavy” game but does so with speed and skill. In the NHL, he is expected to have the same net-front presence and antagonistic qualities as Matthew, who plays a lot like his dad.
The brothers were famously combative as siblings, and there is a well-worn story about how Matthew, who is two years older, thought he’d use the body on Brady during one of their mini-stick games in the Tkachuk basement and drove his brother so hard into the wall, it broke the drywall. Keith’s solution to the problem was to purchase and maintain a drywall repair kit.
“He was a good little brother,” Matthew told The Hockey News. “When I had the size advantage, I think I toughened him up a little bit. But now, I would not mess with him. He’s a little bigger and I think a lot stronger than I am.”
Said Brady of his upbringing in the Tkachuk household: “It kinda means the world to me. That’s who I am today. There’s a lot of hockey talk at dinner and at huge family vacations in the summer. Matthew is my role model and when we were younger, we’d always do something – roller hockey, mini-sticks in the basement, basketball. He taught me how to compete.”
Bob Motzko coached both brothers for Team USA and shared his thoughts on Brady and how his game will translate at the next level.
“There’s something in the DNA there that they’re putting together with these boys, because they’re playing the game hard and heavy with a lot of talent,” Motzko said. “No question, as (Brady) goes through his career, the sky’s the limit, because No. 1, he’s got the size and he’s got an unbelievable skill set and hands. But his motor is what catches everybody. When this kid starts his motor, he goes from 0 to 100 real quick and he wants to do everything at a high pace and heavy and hard.”
It wasn’t all elbows and shoulders and boxing gloves – yes, those, too – when the Tkachuks were learning how to compete. Keith spent the second half of his career playing for the Blues in St. Louis, where Brady was born and Paul Kariya spent the final three years of his NHL career.
Matthew told NHL.com: “Paul was always teaching me and my brother to do all this skilled stuff, and my dad was like: ‘You guys are going to be power forwards.’”