BUFFALO, N.Y. – Matthew Tkachuk had circled the Calgary Flames as his preferred team several weeks ago.
At the NHL scouting combine Tkachuk met with the Flames and was impressed with the organization and the people he met. From that moment on he said he hoped the draft would break a certain way so he could land in Calgary.
When the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Pierre-Luc Dubois over Jesse Puljujärvi with the No. 3 pick, the projections that had Tkachuk going No. 4 to the Edmonton Oilers over Dubois started to look different.
Tkachuk began to see his pathway to Calgary open up. After the Flames called his name an overjoyed Matthew hugged his family, which included father Keith – a former NHL All-Star. His mother cried.
“At the beginning of the day if you had told a lot of people the draft would be the order it is now they would say definitely not. I was one of those guys and it’s such a relief to go to a team you want to go to and it makes it that much better,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “Everybody says how special it is to play in the NHL, but if you really love the team that picked you it makes it that much better. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
After the selection, St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Al MacInnis – and former longtime Flame – texted Keith Tkachuk and said, “you’re lucky” which Matthew appreciated.
“This was the team circled on my list,” Matthew said. “You want to go to a team that really wants you and a team you really want to play for.”
Tkachuk has drawn comparisons to his famous father for his feistiness and goal scoring ability. He had 107 points in 57 games played with the London Knights of the OHL during the regular season, and 40 points in 18 playoff games leading them to the Memorial Cup.
In the World Junior Championship, Tkachuk notched 11 points in seven games.
“Tkachuk is unique in that he brings both skill and a physical package to game situations. He possesses elite hockey sense and vision, has a very good scoring touch and makes players around him better,” NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr said. One of the best puck protection players eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft, he is difficult to check and willing to go to the hard areas to score goals.”
Tkachuk didn’t make any grand proclamations on making the team as an 18-year-old rookie. He was humble and understated after the pick.
“I’m so excited to be drafted by such a really good organization and they have so many great players and such a great now coaching staff finally and great management, it’s an exciting time,” he said. “I hope to make the team sooner than later and help the team win.”
He also understands he’s heading into a spot where hockey’s important and an area that hopes to see a rebirth of the Battle of Alberta the next several years between the Flames and the Connor McDavid led Edmonton Oilers.
The Memorial Cup was played in Red Deer, Alberta and Tkachuk got a taste of this passion.
“A lot of our games were a lot of Calgary jerseys in the stands and you just get the feel it’s a big hockey community there and they love their team and love the players and treat them well,” Tkachuk said. “I’m excited to be a part of that battle and I like playing in those games, the rivalry games, the big games and trying to come through in those games and be a difference maker and I hope to do that in the Battle of Alberta.”
For now it’s about celebrating with his family and preparing for rookie camp.
Said Tkachuk, “I think they have some spots they need to fill when it comes to a player that provides some of my strengths and I hope to do that sooner than later and I hope to be a difference maker soon.”
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