Ottawa Senators Top 25 Under 25, #2: Brady Tkachuk

Entering his prime at the perfect time, will this be the year Tkachuk leads the Senators into the playoffs?

Ottawa Senators Top 25 Under 25, #2: Brady Tkachuk
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 / Unsplash

He's been a special player in the nation's capital for years, but it wasn't until the 2022-2023 season that fans of the Ottawa Senators bore witness to a franchise talent.

Brady Tkachuk delivered on the promise of a successful 4th-overall pick right off the bat, but the offensive ceiling was still to be determined. The 6'4 left wing went on to sign the then-richest contract in franchise history, a seven-year deal worth just north of $8.2M annually, just in time for the 2021-22 season, during which he was named the team's first captain since Erik Karlsson.

What appeared to be a bit of a risky deal at first quickly turned into a bargain as Frank the Tank tallied 7 goals and 13 assists in 15 games in the month of April, before a maiden point-per-game campaign in 2022-23, with 35 goals and 48 assists in 82 games.  

For a player whose supposed weakness is finishing on his scoring chances, a 35-goal season is quite impressive. Those second and third attempts from in front of the net still tend to drop his shooting percentage a fair bit, but he makes up for it by consistently providing an opening for his teammates by way of his elite positioning – converting on one-timers from close range, as well as deflections off of point shots.

Another one of his weaknesses – defensive play – has been improved upon. He won't ever receive a Selke vote, but we saw a smarter and more engaged player away from the puck this past season. Ottawa will still allow a decent number of chances against while he's on the ice, but they're vastly outnumbered by chances for. That -3 rating, for the first time in his career, can be attributed mostly to a lack of quality goaltending behind him.  

Perhaps his biggest, and most underrated, offensive tool is his playmaking. We all know he can throw his weight around in the offensive zone and force turnovers, but it's all for naught if he can't create quality opportunities off of those turnovers. Which he's been doing consistently his entire career. And he's only going to become more effective now that the Senators as a team are much better and generating rush offense as well.

Even without his favourite weapon in Josh Norris, Brady took two strong shooters and made them more effective. A 35-year-old Claude Giroux scored a career-high 35 goals playing most of his minutes with Brady, and Tim Stutzle, who became the best player in the 2020 Draft primarily due to his vision, agility, and drive, just missed out on the 40-goal mark. The three meshed very well together because their strengths complimented each other so well – Giroux's defensive play and Stutzle's mastery of transitioning between zones maximized the amount of time Brady had to wreak havoc in the offensive end.

As a player, he's been widely regarded throughout the league as being the lesser of Keith Tkachuk's two boys. Even as a Sens fan, Matthew's numbers are impossible to ignore – 109 points in 79 games this past season with the Florida Panthers, with huge positive impacts on team offence. But considering Brady entered the NHL two years after his brother and had a more productive fifth season – 83 points in 82 games compared to Matthew's 43 in 56 – I'm not ruling anything out.

Except maybe a between-the-legs goal. It's good to see he's no longer trying to pull this off when his team's down by a goal with a minute to go in the third.

From being a rookie to becoming the captain, Brady has been more than willing to take and dish out punishment for his teammates. One of his first iconic moments as a Senator was his first NHL fight, against Justin Abdelkader following a hit on Mark Stone. "Paying rent" as he called it.

This past season, he took on New York Rangers' captain Jacob Trouba as part of Gordie Howe hat-trick on top of game-tying and overtime-winning goals:

All that's left for Brady is to make the playoffs, and for us to watch his natural play style dominate what's clearly a different sport from regular-season hockey. But that's up to the team as a whole – finishing on chances at even-strength, minimizing turnovers when exiting the zone, avoiding season-long injuries for key players, and goaltending, all questions we've been asking throughout the offseason.

They know how important it is to make it this year. They're still young, but won't be forever. They know it's time to reach their potential and become a force in the NHL.  

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