Brady Tkachuk was everywhere Monday night.
In the Ottawa Senators’ 6-2 shellacking of the New York Rangers, Tkachuk, still just 20, was a non-stop factor. He set up a Ron Hainsey goal with a gorgeous no-look, between-the-legs pass. Tkachuk scored a goal of his own in the third period, jamming his own rebound past Alexandar Georgiev. Tkachuk registered a game-high six shots. He drove the Rangers crazy with his physical, agitating play, baiting Rangers left winger Brendan Lemieux, driving him mad enough to get him tossed from the game. And Tkachuk did it all with a you-know-what-eating grin.
It’s a facial expression and game script we should get used to. Tkachuk may not have a ton of help around him yet as the Senators trudge through a scorched-earth rebuild, but that may not matter. He’s beginning to display the ability to dominate games on his own. He’s shown up on the scoresheet with two goals and five points in his past three games, but his play foreshadowed the breakout well before that. His peripherals suggest a player bubbling toward star status.
Tkachuk wasn’t dominant at first glance as a 19-year-old rookie last season, but he was quite good, picking up 22 goals and 45 points in 71 games during a season in which everything in the world went wrong for the Senators and he watched them trade away their top veteran leaders one by one. Tkachuk did his damage while averaging 16:01 per game. Among 365 forwards who played at least 500 minutes at 5-on-5, he finished 38th in goals per 60 minutes, 11th in shots per 60 minutes, fifth in expected goals per 60 minutes and fourth in individual high-danger shot attempts per 60 minutes. He was flashing top-end scoring ability as a rookie, but it went relatively unnoticed since he missed 11 games and toiled on the league’s worst team.
So far this season, we’re seeing more of the same from Tkachuk. Better, actually. Of the 340 forwards who’ve played 100 minutes at 5-on-5 in 2019-20, Tkachuk is second only to the Montreal Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher in shots and scoring chances per 60 minutes. Tkachuk leads the league in expected goals per 60 minutes and high-danger chances per 60 minutes by a wide margin. And he’s doing all this despite facing opposing teams' best defenders every night. Tkachuk’s most common opponents include Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba and Alex Pietrangelo. It’s early, but it’s clear other teams view Tkachuk as the Senators’ top threat – and he’s still performing as the NHL’s best shot generator despite that.
Tkachuk’s stat line of four goals and eight points in 13 games is awfully misleading, dragged down by his shooting percentage, which sits at 7.8. Given his ability to crash the net and create chances in high-percentage areas, we can expect the accuracy to positively regress.
So keep a close eye on Tkachuk in the weeks and months to come. He may not post award-worthy numbers just yet, as he doesn’t have the help to set him up. Then again, he’s putting himself in position to score regardless. Teams aren’t showing an ability to contain him, and he’s only going to get better. Brady has arrived, and he has a chance to be just as good as brother Matthew – if not better.
(All advanced statistics via NaturalStatTrick)
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