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Brady Tkachuk on life at BU, 2018 NHL Draft, growing up with hockey (PHT Q&A)

It was a pretty festive Thanksgiving for Brady Tkachuk, one of the top prospects in the 2018 NHL draft class. The Boston University forward was surrounded by hockey as his family joined their cousins, the Fitzgerald’s and Hayes’s, for a great turkey day.

Growing up with relatives that have played and currently play in the NHL has been a big benefit for the 18-year-old Tkachuk, who’s an early favorite to be selected in the top five picks next June. You can bet that while there was football on television and turkey on the table Thursday, plenty of hockey talk was going on.

“If I can absorb that from everybody, I would be really happy,” Tkachuk told PHT this week. “It’s kind of awesome because it’s an extra tool I get to use. I get to talk to people that have been through it. It’s definitely awesome to have.”

Tkachuk and his Terrier squad are off to a slow start (6-7-1) to the NCAA season and after winning two of their last three, they head to Madison Square Garden Saturday night for a “Red Hot Hockey” matchup against Cornell.

We spoke to Tkachuk about his time so far at BU, preparing for this season and beyond, and one day playing against his brother in the NHL.

Enjoy.

Q. How’s life at BU been treating you so far?

TKACHUK: “It’s been awesome. I got here in early July for some summer classes just to get used to the city feel and started working out here. But it’s been nothing but an awesome experience getting to meet a new group of guys in September. We’ve got a tight group. It’s been a lot of fun.”

How would you rate your start to the season so far?

“It’s been good. I wish we would have been playing a little bit better right now, but it’s been good. Team’s starting to really pick up past couple of weekends so it’s going to be an exciting couple of weeks ahead of us.”

You mentioned it’s been a tough start for team. Can you diagnose what’s behind the slow start?

“Not really, it’s just kind of about the bounces, but recently in the last couple of weekends we’ve been really playing as a team and as a unit. We’ve been keeping things simple.”

Your dad went to BU. Matt went the junior route. Why did you choose BU and feel the NCAA would be best for your development?

“They’re both great options but I chose BU because it was the best place for me to develop. It’s playing against men [and] the NHL’s full of men so I try to work on my skills here. We’ve got a great coaching staff, a great facility, so it was the best choice for me.”

There’s a lot of draft hype around you and where you might get selected in June. When those rankings come out do you pay any attention to them?

“Yeah, I see them on Twitter, but I try not to look too deep at them. I try to focus on everyday, try to get better. It’s still a ways away, so if I could just focus on becoming better everyday I’ll be happy about that.”

What are the biggest things you worked on in the off-season heading into this year?

“Definitely working on improving my skills and strength. I think that’s really important for everybody, especially myself, because you can never be satisfied with just being yourself. I always want to be better and try to get better every day. So if I can improve one part of my game it’ll just be the little things like tighter stick-handling. If I can do that, I’ll be happy.”

Your dad was one the game’s great power forwards. What kind of things has he told you about developing that strength?

“Just being around the net. Not a lot of guys like to go to the dirty areas. If I can make plays in there I can be successful. I kind of pride myself being around the net, tipping pucks, making plays in tight and try and give and go for my teammates.”

And what kind of advice has your dad and brother given you as you prepare to take this next step in your hockey career?

“Every time I talk to my dad he gives me two rules: compete everyday and be a good teammate. I try to take that and try to work my hardest to get better and work to help my teammates get better and be there to support the guys. My brother has taught me to be a professional every day — eat like one, work like one and treat your body like one and just be focused for everything I do.”

What do you think about Matt’s on-going feud with Drew Doughty?

“I think it’s kind of funny. It’s funny to see because it’s usually me and him going at it, so now seeing him go at it with another guy, it’s funny. They’re both obviously really good hockey players, so I just watch and see it on Twitter and everybody comes up to me the next day and is like, ‘did you see your brother?’”

Finally, the Benn brothers got into it on Tuesday night during their game. Are you looking forward to that day when it’s you and Matt going at it on the ice?

“Yeah, that would be a dream. I think my mom, too, especially would be really happy to see both of us on the same ice together. That’s definitely a big goal of mine and that would be awesome to accomplish our dreams.”

MORE PHT Q&A’s:
Rick Tocchet on Coyotes’ struggles, Clayton Keller, staying patient
Tyler Toffoli on Kings’ coaching change, celebrity encounters
Brian Gionta on NHL future, representing USA Hockey again
Paul Bissonnette on personality in hockey, transitioning to radio

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Sens land free agent goaltender Matt O’Connor

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The Ottawa Senators have signed highly touted free agent goaltender Matt O’Connor to a two-year entry-level contract.

The 23-year-old was reportedly considering offers from the Sens, Rangers, Oilers and Canucks.

The 6-foot-5, Toronto native had a 25-4-4 record to go along with a 2.18 G.A.A. and a .927 save percentage with the Boston University Terriers this season.

Sens GM Bryan Murray now has some decisions to make in goal.

Robin Lehner is under contract for two more years with a cap hit of $2.25 million and Craig Anderson signed a three-year extension worth $12.6 million last summer.

Andrew Hammond, who burst on to the scene in February and guided Ottawa to a playoff spot, is a restricted free agent.

O’Connor went undrafted when he was first eligible at the 2010 NHL Draft.

Report: Sabres to sign Eichel’s college linemate

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Call it an attempt to make Jack Eichel’s decision on whether to leave college this summer easier.

The Buffalo Sabres are reportedly in talks to sign Eichel’s Boston University linemate, Evan Rodrigues to a two-year, entry-level contract.

The Sabres of course earned the second overall selection at the June NHL Draft over the weekend and will likely select Eichel with the pick.

Rodrigues spent much of this season on Eichel’s wing.

The 5-foot-11 forward had 21 goals and 61 points in 41 games this season good for second in NCAA Division I scoring behind only Eichel.

Related: Hobey Baker finalist Hyman won’t sign with Florida

Video: Boston University hands Boston College first home loss

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Evan Rodrigues scored twice and Nikolas Olsson added a goal and an assist as the Terriers upended the Eagles 5-3 Friday night.

Highly touted prospect Jack Eichel netted his fifth goal of the season for BU while Matt O’Connor turned aside 27 shots for his fourth win of the season.

Boston Bruins 2013 fourth-round pick Ryan Fitzgerald scored a pair for Boston College while Chicago Blackhawks 2012 third-round pick Chris Calnan had his third of the season for the Eagles.

Vancouver Canucks 2014 second-round pick Thatcher Demko made 21 saves in a losing cause and saw his record drop to 4-4-0 on the season.

Highly touted defensive prospect Noah Hanifin finished a minus-4 in the loss.

Not bad: 2015 draft prospect Eichel has three assists vs. Sweden

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We know there’s not a lot in the way of hockey going on, but the World Junior Evaluation Camp is going on in Lake Placid, NY for Team USA.

Potential 2015 NHL Draft top pick Jack Eichel was a big part of Team USA’s 7-1 win against Sweden. The future Boston University forward had three assists and helped Minnesota Wild 2014 first-round pick Alex Tuch bag a hat trick in the blowout win.

NHL fans haven’t had much of a look at Eichel while all the talk about next year’s draft has focused on Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid. His appearance at the Lake Placid camp is the first real opportunity for fans to get an idea what he’s all about. As he told Adam Kimelman of NHL.com, he’s anxious to prove he’s right there with McDavid.

“I think it’s in everyone’s competitive nature that they want to go No. 1,” Eichel said. “If I sat here and told you I didn’t want to go No. 1 I’d be lying.”

He may get a couple more chances to prove himself at the WJC Camp with games against Finland and the Czech Republic still to go this week. Expect to hear a lot more about both Eichel and McDavid all season leading up to the 2015 Draft in Sunrise, Florida.