2. Brady Tkachuk (Reader Rank: 2, Last Year: 4)
The scene: June 22nd, 2018 and the Ottawa Senators had already seen their draft pick fall from 2nd overall to 4th overall in what was a suitable ending to an absolutely forgettable season. The draft kicked off with the expected result, Rasmus Dahlin going first overall to the Buffalo Sabres but what happened the next 2 picks was completely unexpected: Filip Zadina was passed over by TWO teams. He was going to fall into the laps of the Sens, and everything was going to be great again — until Dorion ruined it all and called out Brady Tkachuk’s name. Rage. Confusion. Panic.
Tkachuk was touted as a big power forward who can play at both ends of the ice. He had a strong if not overwhelming draft year at Boston University as well as on the US juniors team in terms of point production. He notched 31 points in 40 games as an 18 year-old freshman; good but not earth-shattering. At the time, his biggest attribute might have been his last name. With a dad like Keith Tkachuk, and a brother like Matthew Tkachuk, he had already gained the “tough to play against” reputation. For most, the concerns were about his level of pure skill and his commitment to the Ottawa Senators given the option to go back to University. Also the fact that he wasn’t the coveted Filip Zadina.
In the weeks leading to his first training camp, the fans were warming up to Tkachuk and hoping for the best. He immediately started to make a name for himself starting with the fan fest and season ticket events where many praised him for being an extremely approachable and fun kid. Luckily for us, his fun attitude translated in a big way on the ice. It is no surprise that he jumped 2 spots in the ranking and will probably remain in the top-5 for the next few years. In his first season, Tkachuk showed the fan base that he can easily take most opponents off their game especially in front of the net; a presence the Sens have sorely lacked for a while. In his first 4 games, Tkachuk managed 3 goals and six points and never looked back. There was a bit of a scare when he sidelined in October with a torn ligament but Tkachuk seemed to continue to settle in once he was back.
Perhaps the biggest factor in Tkachuk’s transition into the NHL was his relationship, both on and off the ice, with Mark Stone. Their chemistry was immediate and noticeable: they were the only two Sens to post a positive CF% for the season and their line with Colin White dominated in the way you’d expect a good first line to. There was concern for Tkachuk’s play after the loss of his mentor in a mid-season trade, and while there was an adjustment period, overall Tkachuk continued to progress and impress on his own merit. He finished his rook campaign with 22 goals and 45 points in 71 games played.
Here’s his skater card for last season, courtesy of Micah McCurdy and hockeyviz.com:
There are many reasons to be excited about Tkachuk beginning with his aggressive plays that sees him getting in everyone’s way. He’s a real agitator. His scoring ability was almost certainly underrated, and perhaps most importantly his fun attitude on the ice brings out the best in him and his teammates. Once Tkachuk fully grows and gains more experience, he has the potential to be a staple of not only the team but one of the stars of the league. Some fans are already calling him for to be named Captain and while I think he’s too young and inexperienced, he certainly does possess the qualities to become a leader in the room in a very short period of time.
In case you’d forgotten what Brady’s play looks like, here are some of his best moments from last year including his big two goal performance: