This season’s youth movement isn’t just about Connor McDavid and others presenting a “changing of the guard.” In a subtler way, players are making impressive headway in jumping straight from the 2016 NHL Draft to full-time work.
Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames present the latest example.
The team informed the 18-year-old that he’d play in his 10th game of the season, even if they made him “sweat it.” That, of course, means that he’s burning a year off of his entry-level deal months after being selected sixth overall in the most recent draft.
It’s an interesting choice. Both the Flames (4-6-1) and the prospect (four points in nine games, about 12 minutes per night) are presenting mixed results.
Actually, much like Calgary, there have been some good signs fairly recently.
Tkachuk generated a three-game assist streak from Oct. 25-30, all at even strength. Considering his scant ice time, that’s not too shabby.
Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan likes his dirty work, using far work-friendlier language than Brian Burke’s colorful description.
“He’s always in the fabric of the game,” Gulutzan said. “He’s always around the net. I (think) he’s done a great job of managing pucks and getting pucks in deep.”
Tkachuk’s regular linemates of Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik are no slouches, but allow a vote for Tkachuk to bring his mixture of skill and tenacity to the Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau combo. No offense meant to Alex Chiasson, but Tkachuk would be fun to watch in a role where he’d clean up the garbage and maybe open up space for that dynamic duo.
That’s not the current alignment, but the Flames could go to that option if they want to; Tkachuk will be around for a while.
More from earlier today: Jakob Chychrun also likely to stick around in Arizona.