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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.

Penn State goaltender robs opponent with incredible stick save (Video)

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Penn State’s men’s hockey team won their fourth straight Big Ten conference opener thanks to a strong power play and the goaltending of Peyton Jones, who will find himself on many highlight reels this weekend.

With the Nittany Lions up 3-0 on the Minnesota Golden Gophers late in the second period, Jones, who stopped 20 of 21 shots faced, kept his shutout alive with this dazzling stick save on Mike Szmatula:

“I’ve obviously seen saves like that before on SportsCenter, but I’ve never seen one live,” Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said via USCHO. “It was pretty incredible.”

Jones, a sophomore who was making his 19th consecutive start, did find himself on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays of the night Friday, landing at No. 3.

The Nittany Lions, with help from two power play goals, would hold on to win 3-1 to improve to 2-1-0 on the season.

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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.

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Columbus’ Umberger to coach at Ohio State

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RJ Umberger is giving back to his alma mater.

That’s the word out of Columbus on Tuesday as the current Blue Jackets center — and former Buckeyes All-American — announced he’ll be joining Ohio State’s men’s team as a volunteer coach during the lockout.

“With the NHL lockout in full force, I am looking forward to being more connected to the Ohio State hockey program once again,” Umberger told the OSU Athletic site. “I’m excited to spend time on the ice with the players keeping myself in shape and hopefully offering any advice and help I can to them.”

Umberger spent three seasons at Ohio State from 2000-03, earning All-American honors as a junior by scoring 53 points in 43 games.

During his time with the Buckeyes, Umberger played with a number of future NHLers including Ryan Kesler, David Steckel, Rod Pelley and Nate Guenin.

He also played with a guy named Peter Broccoli, which I’m mentioning mostly because there’s a guy named Peter Broccoli.

It’s worth noting that Umberger is still the highest-drafted player in Buckeyes history, taken 16th overall at the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.

Leafs, Habs and Panthers draftees suspended for partying

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Big college hockey news — the four captains of North Dakota’s men’s hockey team have been suspended for the season opener after a team party on Saturday, Sept. 15.

Captain Andrew MacWilliam, Toronto’s seventh-round pick at the 2008 draft, and assistants Danny Kristo (Montreal, 2nd round 2008), Corban Knight (Florida, 5th round 2009) and Carter Rowney will miss UND’s Oct. 19 game against Alaska Anchorage.

The decision comes just weeks after MacWilliam (pictured) was named captain for his senior season.

While details from the team party aren’t known, the North Dakota athletic department issued this statement:

“The behavior in this situation was unacceptable,” [UND Director of Athletics Brian] Faison said. “Measures taken by the athletics department do not preclude possible additional measures by the department, or actions by the University or local and state authorities.”

“Recent actions by our team are not a good representation of our place as role models within our community,” said UND head men’s hockey coach Dave Hakstol. “We have young men of high character in our locker room, but our players, and in particular our leaders, must be accountable for their actions.”

In addition to the suspension of the team captains, Faison also announced several additional team disciplinary measures including, but not limited to:

  • Athletics Department-issued team probation under which any further violations by a team member could result in immediate reduction of scholarship, suspension from competition, or expulsion from the program.
  • The implementation of a mandatory team community service program
  • Weekly team alcohol education programming 

This isn’t the first time the hockey program has found itself in hot water.

In 2009, current Toronto Maple Leafs forward Matt Frattin was arrested with driving under the influence — just one month after he received a year’s probation for an incident in which he and a teammate were accused of throwing dinnerware, a kitchen table and a lawnmower onto the street.

Yeah, a lawnmower.

Image courtesy UNDsports.com

Wolverines coach Berenson named to Detroit’s Winter Classic alumni roster

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The 2013 Winter Classic will have a decidedly maize and blue feel.

The game will be played at the home of the University of Michigan Wolverines — Michigan Stadium — and now, it’s been revealed the legendary coach of the Wolverines’ hockey team will suit up for the Wings.

According to the Detroit News, Red Berenson — the fifth-winningest coach in collegiate hockey history — will suit up for Detroit when the Wings alumni face the Leafs alumni on Dec. 31 at Comerica Park.

Berenson played 283 games with the Red Wings from 1970-75. In 1971-72 he finished third on the team in scoring (with 69 points), trailing only Marcel Dionne and Mickey Redmond. Redmond will be one of Berenson’s teammates on the Detroit alumni team.

Along with Berenson, the News reported three other additions to the Red Wings squad: Aaron Ward, Jimmy Carson and Dennis Polonich.

Full Rosters (as of 8/16/2012)

Red Wings

Forwards

Red Berenson, Jimmy Carson, Dino Ciccarelli, Alex Delvecchio, Kris Draper, Sergei Fedorov, Joe Kocur, Martin Lapointe, Igor Larionov, Ted Lindsay, Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty, John Ogrodnick, Dennis Polonich, Mickey Redmond, Luc Robitaille

Defensemen

Chris Chelios, Paul Coffey, Mathieu Dandenault, Jiri Fischer, Viacheslav Fetisov, Mark Howe, Vladimir Konstantinov, Larry Murphy, Aaron Ward

Goalies

Chris Osgood, Mike Vernon

Coaches

Scotty Bowman, Barry Smith

Maple Leafs

Forwards

Dave Andreychuk, Wendel Clark, Russ Courtnall, Vincent Damphousse, Bill Derlago, Tie Domi, Ron Ellis, Doug Gilmour, Gary Leeman, Kevin Maguire, Brad May, Lanny McDonald, Gary Roberts, Darryl Sittler, Darcy Tucker, Rick Vaive, Tiger Williams

Defensemen

Dave Ellett, Jim McKenny, Bryan McCabe, Bob McGill

Goalies

Johnny Bower, Curtis Joseph, Mike Palmateer, Felix Potvin

Coaches

Red Kelly, Pat Quinn