If you’re looking for good news in Ottawa, Brady Tkachuk is a great place to start. The budding power forward was selected fourth overall by the Senators this summer and with no first-rounder in 2019 right now, the franchise could really use a win in the young left winger.
Tkachuk was in Toronto recently for the NHLPA Rookie Showcase, where a score of NHL hopefuls got their photos taken for Upper Deck hockey cards. But he has also been in the area this summer to work on his game. His goals were manifold.
“Just to get bigger, faster, stronger - like everybody says,” Tkachuk said. “Keep working on my skill. And for me, it was my eating too. I learned a lot from Gary Roberts on the nutrition side and I’ll use that knowledge moving forward.”
Roberts, of course, has been a health guru for a number of years now, helping current and aspiring NHLers take their physical fitness to the next level with a combination of workouts and lifestyle changes that often involve quinoa and sprouts.
“I’ve got a sweet tooth, so I had to watch that a bit,” Tkachuk said. “All the food there has been unbelievable and I feel a lot better. It’s been showing in the gym and on the ice in my skating.”
Indeed, while Tkachuk has always been big, he looks even sturdier now. It’s difficult for a player to go straight from the draft podium to the NHL, but Tkachuk has the portfolio to do it. First off, his Sept. 16 birthday means that he missed the 2017 draft pool by one day, so he’s as old a first-timer as possible. Secondly, the Senators aren’t exactly flush with talent right now, so even with a bunch of older forwards to compete with, Tkachuk’s two-way game, skill and size give him an advantage over a number of incumbents.
Though he played only one year at Boston University, his time with the Terriers gave Tkachuk the experience of facing off against older competition. He was a beast at the world juniors for Team USA and his long list of NHL relatives (his dad Keith, brother Matt and assorted kin from the Fitzgerald and Hayes clans) gives him an incredible pedigree.
The most intriguing pre-season question is where Tkachuk ends up for 2018-19. In signing his entry-level deal with the Senators, Tkachuk ended his NCAA eligibility. Should he not make the NHL, he could go to the AHL as a member of the Belleville Senators, or to the OHL’s London Knights. Older bro Matthew played for the Knights before graduating to the Calgary Flames, but he didn’t come from the college ranks beforehand.
Should Brady decide to go that route, it would shake up the power rankings in the OHL, just as London welcomes back GM Mark Hunter from his NHL stint in Toronto. The Knights enticed Chicago Blackhawks first-rounder Adam Boqvist to join the defense over the summer, while D-man Evan Bouchard (Edmonton) and speedy center Liam Foudy (Columbus) return after getting claimed in the first round themselves.
Given Edmonton’s defensive issues - specifically the injury to Andrej Sekera - Bouchard might end up spending time with the Oilers early on, but either way London will be competitive. Tkachuk would really power them up, though his focus isn’t on the choice between London and Belleville right now.
“I haven’t thought about that,” he said. “My main goal is to make Ottawa and be there the whole year so I haven’t thought about anything else.”
The times are looking dark in Ottawa, but there is hope for the future. Tkachuk is one key element, while Logan Brown, Thomas Chabot, Colin White and Drake Batherson are a few others of note. Whether Tkachuk’s NHL career starts this year or next, it’s going to be a fun one filled with hits, points and a lot of action.