Ottawa Senators Top 25 Under 25, #4: Brady Tkachuk

We commence the final four with our captain

Looking back at Beata’s write-up for Brady Tkachuk from last year, it feels like a different lifetime. Heading into last season, we had some serious questions about Brady’s future with the Ottawa Senators. He went unsigned heading into the season, we still didn’t know whether he or Thomas Chabot would become the next captain of the team, and various parties had voiced concerns about his play on both sides of the puck. Despite all that uncertainty, he still ranked second on this very same list because, quite frankly, Tkachuk exemplifies everything we like about the potential of this team and very, very few players have endeared themselves to this fanbase through sheer personality the way Brady has. Don’t let any of last year’s doubt (or the fact that he ranked two spots lower this year) fool you, though. Tkachuk had a solid season with his newly-minted extension and official leadership role.

4: Brady Tkachuk (Reader Rank: 3, Last Year: 2)

If any fans in Ottawa had reservations about Tkachuk’s ability to live up to his new salary and title, Brady addressed those concerns immediately and unrelentingly. Tkachuk set new personal bests in almost every obvious statistical category and I would argue that he did so without “gaming” or “cheating” his numbers. Before I get to gushing over Tkachuk’s season, though, I guess I’ll acknowledge the very few flaws that I can pick out in his game.

Maybe not so much a flaw as a coaching decision, Tkachuk still hasn’t assumed a role on the penalty kill through four seasons in the NHL. While he certainly has a lot to offer at five-on-five and with the man advantage, I’ll take the extremely old school stance here that I would probably like my captain out there leading the penalty kill as well. We’ll see if DJ Smith experiments with Brady on the PK this season. In terms of giveaway-to-takeaway ratio, Tkachuk once again ended last season in the negatives so he could probably clean up his puck management a bit. And finally, last season Tkachuk’s on-ice expected goals numbers (both for and against (and thus as a percentage)) regressed at five-on-five so we’ll see if he can right the proverbial ship with a much improved top-six in town supporting him. I will re-state that these are all minor nits to pick at best.

On to the good stuff now. As captain, Brady led Ottawa’s forwards in a zillion statistical categories last season. On the powerplay, he led the group in corsi-for per 60 (at 106) and expected goals-for per 60 (at 9). At five-on-five, he led in on-ice corsi-for per 60 (at 60) and kept his head above water (if only marginally) at 51% on-ice corsi-for. Again at five-on-five, Alex Formenton and Drake Batherson outpaced Tkachuk in terms of on-ice expected goals-for per 60 (Brady at 2.6) and Brady failed to break even in on-ice expected goals-for at 48.5% (as noted above in areas to improve).

Looking at counting stats , Tkachuk’s 30 goals trailed only linemate Josh Norris, while his 37 assists and 67 points led Ottawa’s forwards in all situations. Tkachuk also led the way with 288 shots, 34.6 individual expected goals, and 117 PIM. As mentioned at the outset, I don’t think Tkachuk really benefited from luck or circumstance when looking at his peripheral numbers like expected goals and on-ice corsi rates (and his very modest shooting percentage bears this out). For all of Brady’s time spent in the box, he also did a great job drawing penalties as he trailed only Tim Stützle with 39 drawn (a -4 penalty differential seems very respectable for a young player of Tkachuk’s nature). I also think it bears mentioning that for all the edge that Tkachuk plays with, he didn’t miss a single game after signing his contract early in the season. Naturally Tkachuk led his group with 270 hits.

Maybe I’ve missed the conversation but I also feel like we don’t talk enough about Tkachuk’s faceoff prowess. I wouldn’t call him prime Jason Spezza or anything, but he ended last season above 50% in net draws and has performed as well in the dot as any of Ottawa’s centres pretty much since he got here. Seriously, get this guy on the penalty kill, DJ. Simply staying above 50/50 on a young, inexperienced team will keep you near the top of the list and Tkachuk had his best results to date. Among the other stats listed above, Tkachuk’s marks in goals, assists, points, shots, individual expected goals, penalties (drawn and taken) and hits marked personal bests for the captain. He also had his most successful season to date on the powerplay. His five-on-five corsi-for per/60 and percentages also marked new career highs.

So there you have it folks, with very few exceptions, captain Tkachuk managed to set new personal bests in terms of individual production and on-ice results while leading Ottawa’s forwards by and large along the way. Despite missing the postseason again, Ottawa looked like a team with a purpose under Brady’s leadership and he gave the fans plenty to cheer about. Brady Tkachuk: he’s good and we’re lucky to have him!

Stay tuned as we crack the top-three tomorrow!

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