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Brady Tkachuk: Year in Review

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Tkachuk had a similar season to his first two, but he’s gaining popularity for a potential captaincy

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to our Year in Review feature at Silver Seven Sens, where we re-visit the past season for key members of the Ottawa Senators. Here are the players we’ve profiled previously:

Drake Batherson

Erik Brännström

Connor Brown

Josh Brown

Thomas Chabot

Evgeni Dadonov (no longer in Ottawa)

Alex Formenton

Victor Mete

Josh Norris

Nick Paul

Today we look at potential future Captain, Brady Tkachuk, who is still an unsigned RFA this summer.

By the Numbers:

Tkachuk ended the season with 56 games played, 17 goals, and 19 assists, which put him on a 53-point pace over the course of a full season. For reference, he was on pace for 52 and 51 points in his first two seasons respectively, as he has not played 82 games in a season yet. A 53-point pace is very respectable, but what stood out about Tkachuk (and what has stood out in the past) is that he ranked top-6 in the NHL in four different categories: expected goals (2nd with 24.11), hits (2nd with 248), shots (2nd with 220), and PIMs (6th with 69).

He has essentially become the prototpyical power forward that the Senators and their fans love.

Brady ranked 5th on the Senators in expected goals % at 50.51%, plus as I alluded to earlier, his individual numbers in that category have always been excellent. However, his defensive impact leaves something to be desired, as EvolvingWild had him as only Ottawa’s 12th most valuable player via Goals Above Replacement (GAR), which is mainly because of his second-last on the team -2.7 defensive GAR. Only Tim Stützle had a lower defensive GAR at -3.9, although he certainly faced some tough competition. In fact, according to JFresh Hockey, he was in the 93rd percentile for quality of competition.

It’s difficult to take those numbers at face value though because the team around him will change so much over the next short while, plus I expect his overall game to improve moving forward, as I will touch on later. Nevertheless, he was an impactful player who showed great chemistry with common linemates Josh Norris and Drake Batherson.

Story of the Season:

Coming into the season, fans and media questioned whether or not Brady would “take the next step” and essentially become what his brother Matthew has become for the Flames, which is a 70+ point player. There was some optimism about that happening, but I think most people expected that for the following season once the team was a bit better. As previously mentioned, not much changed about his on-ice production, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

He’s been a lovable character this whole time, but that became even more true when he kept doing the “Frank the Tank” celebration after almost every goal he scored, which his teammates seemed to love:

When you combine that with the bromance that he seems to have with so many of his teammates (most notably Stützle), it was hard not to smile every time they had the camera on him:

He was already the fan favourite heading into the season, but as they gained some swagger in the second half, people realized that this is Brady’s team.

Future Outlook:

First of all, his contract needs to be settled. I have absolutely no worries about a contract getting signed because keeping RFA’s has never been a problem for Ottawa. However, fans will surely be disappointed if he only signs for two or three years as has been rumoured. Everyone would love for him to be a Senator for life, and a seven or eight year deal would go a long way to getting people to believe in this rebuild. It might be difficult to convince him to sign for that long though not because he doesn’t love Ottawa or playing with all of his friends, but because his statistical profile right now doesn’t show him being worth $8M or somewhere in that range.

Perhaps Ottawa is willing to offer that, in which case, both sides would be happy. But Brady might be more willing to do with his brother did and increase his point totals so that his next contract can be his lucrative one (and he would be well worth it). I won’t blame him for wanting to sign a short-term deal because that’s probably in his best interest at this stage. Interestingly, EvolvingWild’s contract projection system has him at a 6-year deal worth $6.467M per season, although that is based on similar players to him and wouldn’t include things such as what the player wants to do.

Eugene Melnyk’s quote in May about a captain on a bridge contract was eyebrow-raising:

“Whoever it is, they’ve got to be around long term. That’s the key for us. You can’t have a captain there on a bridge contract. It’s not gonna happen. But he, along with Thomas Chabot, they’re both leaders. They’re both leaders in the dressing room, which is what you’re looking for.”

So who knows if that was just posturing by him to get Tkachuk more interested in signing long-term or if Brady actually won’t get the ‘C’ if he signs for 2-3 years. I think it’d be a big mistake to base the captaincy on contract status though. It seems as if the fanbase would be content with Thomas Chabot to be the captain, but Brady is certainly the favourite amongst fans for that role.

As for his future on the ice, I think he has room to grow. After shooting 10.3% in his rookie season and 8.1 the following year, he shot just 7.7% in 2021, meaning all he needs to do is have a small amount of puck luck to reach 30 goals. He was on pace for 25, so 30 should not be out of the question at all. Furthermore, he will be playing on better teams in the future which should take some of the load off his shoulders so that he doesn’t have to be the main target for opposing defensemen. I don’t see why 65-70 points per season is out of the question.

He’s already an impactful player, but if he can finish more of his chances, have slightly better discipline, and continue to work on the defensive side of his game, he will easily be one of the best power forwards in the game. I’d love to see that next step as soon as possible.