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Top 25 Under 25, #2: Brady Tkachuk

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The birthday boy retains his spot at #2 on our list, as contract disputes continue between him and the team

Ottawa Senators v Calgary Flames Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

#2: Brady Tkachuk (Last Year: 2, Reader Rank: 1)

At twenty-two years old to the day, birthday boy Brady Tkachuk takes the #2 spot on our Top 25 Under 25 ranking for the third consecutive year, as the team’s top scoring forward and unofficial captain.

The power forward was a controversial draft pick at fourth overall in 2018, initially billed as a grinder and a character guy rather than a player with a particularly impressive skillset. He won over Sens fans in record time, though, bursting onto the scene in 2018-19 and proving that he can contribute offensively in the NHL.

Indeed, Tkachuk finished 2021 with the most points of any player on the team, narrowly beating out Connor Brown and Josh Norris with 36 points, which would have put him on pace for about 53 points in a full season. This is pretty much exactly the point pace he had in 2018-19 and 2019-20. It would have been nice to see a bit more from him, but as Trevor pointed out in his year in review piece, Tkachuk’s most impressive stats this year were his expected goals (second in the league with 24.11), his hits (second in the league with 248, only 2 behind Gudas for the top spot) and shots (second in the league with 220, only 2 behind Matthews for the top spot).

That’s right, Brady Tkachuk is one of those players who is both good on paper and passes the eye test! How does he do it?

I don’t want this to get too repetitive, so I’ll point you all to Trevor’s piece if you want more stats, but I will reiterate that Tkachuk is incredibly good at getting pucks to the net and creating chances. Where he could use a little bit more work is in finishing those chances. Thankfully he does have linemates who are perfectly capable of doing that for him.

Unfortunately, not every advanced stats metric has nice things to say about him. The thing with Tkachuk is that most of those shots and scoring chances come from jamming at pads, and don’t usually result in actual goals. The disparity between his expected goals and his actual goals is absolutely huge. So you can look at it one of two ways: on the one hand, you can say that getting pucks on net is always a good thing, and that Brady Tkachuk is elite at getting pucks to the net even if he isn’t an amazing goalscorer. Alternatively, you can say, as JFresh does, that he’s not actually that good at scoring goals, but he inflates his stats by planting himself in front of the net and getting easy shots.

As for those defensive numbers... I mean, it’s the Sens, and he’s young? Maybe it's not time to worry just yet?

Here’s something that should inspire confidence going forward, though: how much chemistry Tkachuk has managed to find with his linemates. This season, he cemented his role as a netfront presence, there to get into the dirty areas while his linemates made the fancier plays. He’s looked fantastic with Josh Norris and Drake Batherson, who will probably continue to play on his line going forward.

2020-21 was very much a transitional year for the Ottawa Senators. That means that, going into 2021-22 we now have a better idea of what the future is going to look like. Not only is Tkachuk going to get better; his linemates will as well. As players like Norris and Batherson get better at making plays and scoring goals, they will certainly appreciate someone like Tkachuk getting pucks on net and screening goalies. I’m no expert, but I personally really like the fact that the Sens have a mix of different types of players who can all complement each other.

I know we said this last year, but… next season could be a real breakout year for Brady Tkachuk. He’ll have consistent, highly-skilled linemates for a full 82 game season. Everyone around him is going to be better than they were last year. I’m sure there will be plenty of bumps along the road, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he took a big step forward in terms of point production.

Even if Tkachuk doesn’t score many more goals this season than he did during the last one, we can still expect him to continue to create chances for other players and to be an important presence in the locker room.

Alright, I can’t get this far without addressing the elephant in the room. No, as of the writing of this piece, Brady Tkachuk does not have a new contract. Yes, he will sign eventually - he has to. No, we don’t know what that contract will look like.

Given the team’s recent history, I wouldn’t blame anyone for being concerned about how things are (not) progressing. It would certainly be nice to have the guy locked up long term, especially since the team is very publicly using the captaincy as a bargaining chip. No shade to Thomas Chabot, but it’s very obvious at this point that Brady Tkachuk is the captain of this team. Frankly, I think he should be named captain whether he’s on a bridge deal or not. If he signs on for, say, three years - as many, many restricted free agents do - and the team names someone else as captain, doesn’t that send the message that they expect him to leave when he hits free agency? I feel like a bridge deal plus the captaincy does plenty to inspire confidence in the organization. It also gives the front office a time limit in which they’ll need to prove that they’re actually serious about competing.

Or, you know, the organization could just fulfill that promise they made a few years back when they said they’d spend money when the time was right, and give the kid whatever he’s asking for. That would work too.

Just… sign the guy. Then make him captain. Please.