At #4 in our previews we have
Jimmy Hayes’ cousin the son of Keith Tkachuk: Matthew Tkachuk.
The quick info: LW, 6’1″, 195 lbs., London Knights (OHL)
Tkachuck is an outstanding offensive talent. He has soft, deft hands, and is very creative with a top-notch offensive IQ. He has accurate, needle-threading passing skills. Both his wrist shot and slap shot have a compact release and blistering velocity. Possibly most importantly, his soft hands allow him to need no time to settle a puck after a pass. As a result, the puck is flying off his stick for a shot as soon as he receives it, and goalies have much less time to get into position to make a save. Tkachuk was part of the “three-headed monster” line with Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak, and lit up the OHL for 107 points this season.
While he has a ton of the razzle-dazzle, Tkachuk plays with the same snarl and tenacity as his dad. He plays hard and hits hard. He’s very difficult to knock off the puck. He battles in the corners and in front of the crease. He’s also able to combine his skill and physicality to make plays. This lets him make no-look passes into the slot after winning the puck along the boards, make top-shelf wristers from down low after battling around the crease, or set up screens for super-deft deflections.
The biggest knock on Tkachuk’s game is that he plays most of his game below the faceoff dots in the offensive zone. He’s frighteningly effective there, but he needs to develop a lot more commitment to the rest of the rink. He also has been knocked for his skating, but there are a couple of grains of salt to be taken there. He’s a good skater, with excellent speed and balance. He’s just a notch or half a notch not quite as fast as the top skaters in the first round. He’s also put a ton of effort into improving and developing his skating, to the point where he could keep up with Mitch Marner. Maybe scouts’ opinions are slightly colored by his skating from a year or two ago when it needed a lot of work.
With an NHL-ready body, NHL-ready offense, and truly top-end offensive talent, Matthew Tkachuk will likely start next season with the NHL team that drafts him. The work he needs to do on his game in his own end keeps him out of the top three, but the team that drafts him will get a cornerstone, top-line scorer.