Keith Tkachuk

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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.

Mike Smith leads Phoenix to the top of the Pacific Division

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We bet the Tampa Bay Lightning wish they still had Mike Smith right about now. Just hours after Pittsburgh torched Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson in an 8-1 blowout to send Tampa Bay slipping further out of the playoff picture, Smith posted his 10th straight victory to give Phoenix a two-point lead in the Pacific Division race. The pressure is now on San Jose to win against Nashville Saturday night to re-establish the tie.

Phoenix got out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Ray Whitney in the first period. With just 2:28 minutes left in regulation time, Shane Doan added an insurance goal. It was Doan’s 20th goal of the season, which makes this the 11th campaign that Doan has found the back of the net at least 20 times. It was also his 316th career goal with the Phoenix Coyotes/original Winnipeg Jets, putting him just seven goals shy of Keith Tkachuk for second place on the franchise list.

For Edmonton, this game marked the return of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had missed 20 of the team’s previous 22 contests due to shoulder problems. Even after all that time on the sidelines, the Oilers did not feel the need to ease him back into the lineup, as Nugent-Hopkins ended up logging 21:34 minutes. He also scored the Oilers’ lone goal, as he looks to make up lost ground in the battle for the Calder Trophy.

While Phoenix is battling for their division title, the Edmonton Oilers have no hope of making the playoffs. After the trade deadline comes and goes, the only question left will be if the Oilers can avoid finishing in last place in the NHL for the third straight season. They currently rank 29th overall, but have an 11 point lead on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Phoenix to honor Keith Tkachuk tonight

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December has been a pretty good month for Keith Tkachuk.

Two weeks ago, he was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Tonight, he’ll enter the Phoenix Coyotes Ring of Honor prior to the start of the Coyotes-Blues game.

“It’s been an incredible couple of weeks,” Tkachuk told NHL.com. “It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Arizona, and the memories just come flooding back. Great teams. Great teammates and friends. Great fans. It was a great time in my life.”

Tkachuk played a key role of putting the Coyotes on the map in Arizona — he still scoffs at the notion that Phoenix isn’t a hockey town — though the rest of his “Massachusetts Mafia” cohorts played a part. In their first season in Phoenix, Boston natives Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Bob Corkum and Craig Janney had a great time on the ice (Tkachuk and Roenick combined for 81 goals) and an even better time off it:

[It was a ] pack of young Coyotes who enjoyed playing horrible golf, smoking fine cigars and partaking in nearby Scottsdale’s vibrant nightlife.

They also enjoyed taking their act on the road and wouldn’t let a silly thing like coach Jim Schoenfeld’s curfew get in the way. Roenick remembered one December road trip to Florida in 1997 where a tired crew needed their captain to bail them out.

“We had a game the next night but that didn’t stop Keith, Bobby Corkum, C.J. and I from sneaking out to hit South Beach.” he said. “We finally crawled in about 4 a.m. and we were all in pretty rough shape. I felt like I was skating in the sand. I couldn’t move, and the rest of our gang was a mess too.

“But Walt (Tkachuk) was everywhere. He had a hat trick and we won 3-2. He won the game himself.”

After the game, Tkachuk sauntered onto the team bus, went past Schoenfeld with a big smile, and after walking down the aisle singing his trademark song after a road win, “Closing Time” by Semisonic, he announced. “OK boys, I did my part. The rest of the road trip is up to you.”

If that anecdote doesn’t highlight Tkachuk’s intestinal fortitude, this piece from the Globe and Mail does. Entitled “A sport with teeth”, it talks about what Tkachuk calls “by far the worst injury” he’s ever had — a puck to the face that shattered his upper jaw.

The puck hit Keith Tkachuk just below his nose, shattering his upper jaw and crushing the bone so badly, four teeth simply dropped out of his mouth.

Tkachuk’s surgery this week involved a transplant of bone from his hip to restore his upper jaw. If that process is successful, false teeth will be implanted when the area is healed.

“You just don’t realize,” Tkachuk said. “It’s by far the worst injury I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”

He sat out only three games, returning to the ice after 10 days with six front teeth missing.

Tough dude. No wonder the Coyotes are putting him in the Ring of Honor.

Coyotes to induct Tkachuk, Roenick into Ring of Honor

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The Phoenix Coyotes have announced that former captain Keith Tkachuk and assistant captain Jeremy Roenick will be inducted into the club’s Ring of Honor. Tkachuk will be honored when the Coyotes host the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 23 and Roenick’s night will take place on Feb. 11 when the Coyotes host the Chicago Blackhawks.

Tkachuk (No. 7) and Roenick (No. 97) will become the sixth and seventh players to enter the ring, joining Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Hull, Thomas Steen, Dale Hawerchuk and Teppo Numminen. But they, along with Numminen, are the only ones to have actually played in Coyotes uniforms. More specifically, they all wore the epic “dog on acid” jerseys.

The two newest inductees reflect both parts of the franchise’s history. Tkachuk was a member of the original Jets team (taken 19th overall at the 1990 Entry Draft) and scored 50 goals in the team’s final season in Winnipeg. This isn’t to say Tkachuk didn’t make his mark in Phoenix — he led the NHL in goals in his first year as a Coyote, edging out both Teemu Selanne and Mario Lemieux.

Roenick, meanwhile, was a full-fledged Coyote. He was the club’s first major acquisition upon moving to Phoenix (traded from Chicago for Alexei Zhamnov and Craig Mills) and led the Coyotes in scoring three seasons while being named an NHL All-Star twice.

“We are very pleased to induct Keith and Jeremy into the Coyotes Ring of Honor,” Coyotes CEO Mike Nealy told the team’s website. “Both Keith and JR were very important and popular players for our organization who helped launch our franchise in the Valley in 1996. They both had incredible careers and are deserving of this honor. We look forward to celebrating their careers with the Coyotes later this season.”

Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk, Gary Suter, Doc Emrick, and Ed Snider elected to U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

Getting elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame is a special moment for any American that’s dedicated their playing life or career to the game. For the class of five that was elected to USA Hockey’s highest honor this year, it’s a whopper of an induction class. Former players Chris Chelios, Gary Suter, and Keith Tkachuk are joined by NBC lead play-by-play voice Mike “Doc” Emrick and Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider.

Chelios goes in perhaps as the biggest name after spending 20+ years in the NHL as a three time Stanley Cup champion and three time Norris Trophy defenseman as well as playing college hockey at the University of Wisconsin and on four U.S. Olympic teams his career is truly a wonder to behold. He’ll eventually be a Hockey Hall of Famer in Toronto, but this year he gets to live his glory out in the United States as one of the greatest Americans to play the game.

Gary Suter played for 17 seasons in the NHL playing for the Flames, Blackhawks, and Sharks. In that time he put up 203 goals and 844 points as a defenseman. Teaming up with the likes of Chelios and Al MacInnis in his career, Suter was the perfect complimentary defenseman mixing in offense with the kind of snarl on the blue line coaches salivate over. Suter also played at the University of Wisconsin in college and played for Team USA in the 1998 and 2002 Olympics.

Keith Tkachuk made a big name for himself as one of the top power forwards in the NHL suiting up for the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, and for a brief stint with the Atlanta Thrashers. In his NHL career, Tkachuk piled up 538 goals and 1,065 assists over 18 NHL seasons. While Tkachuk never hoisted the Stanley Cup, his career as one of the best power forwards through the 1990s and early 2000s was cemented. Tkachuk’s best seasons came while with the Jets/Coyotes but he made himself into a folk hero in St. Louis. Tkachuk also got his start in hockey playing for one season at Boston University and as a Melrose, Massachusetts native, sticking close to home from the get-go got him off on the right foot, one that saw him play four times for Team USA in the Olympics.

Doc Emrick we know all about here at NBC and ProHockeyTalk. A gentleman of the game and one of the best on-air ambassadors you’ll find in hockey spent over 20 years as the lead play-by-play voice for the New Jersey Devils. During that time, Emrick also became the voice of the NHL playoffs and Stanley Cup finals working as the lead play-by-play man for NBC and Versus. Emrick’s professionalism in all things has helped him become the voice of the NHL now as he takes over as the full-time play-by-play voice for NBC and Versus this year.

Ed Snider is the long time owner of the Philadelphia Flyers and as the man at the helm of one of the NHL’s iconic franchises, he’s also helped become a leader in growing the game of hockey in eastern Pennsylvania and across the country. Snider, already a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, now gets his just deserving in the United States. Snider’s ability to help grow the game and establishing the Flyers as one of the top franchises in the NHL are all the proof you need to see why he’s being enshrined.