There’s just something annoying, maybe enraging, about Brady Tkachuk and Matthew Tkachuk.
Keith’s progeny bring a lot to the table of obnoxiousness. Some of their facial expressions practically demand a mitt in the mush. That only intensifies when they stick their mouthpieces out like plastic tongues. One can only imagine how irritating their trash talk can be, considering that even Brady refers to Matthew as a “pest.”
For opponents, the worst part is that they aren’t just the worst, they’re also among the best players on their respective teams. And it sure seems like they keep getting better, which should only make them bigger headaches.
The Brad Marchand Club
While pure pests are becoming an endangered species in the NHL, there are still some who can eke out a living even if they do little beyond getting under your skin.
It’s early, even in Matthew’s career, but it sure feels like it’s going to be increasingly appropriate to compare the Tkachuk brothers to Brad Marchand, a hyper-talented hyper-pest.
Through 24 games, Matthew Tkachuk has generated an impressive 27 points for the Calgary Flames.
Remarkably, he continues to do a significant chunk of his damage at even-strength, as only nine of his 27 points have come on the power play. Brady Tkachuk is creating a similar impact so far, as he’s managed 16 points in his first 14 games with the Ottawa Senators, with a mere four being PPP.
Now, it’s important to note the Tkachuk puck luck at hand. Matthew’s 12 goals come on just 54 SOG (22.2 percent), while Brady’s nine goals happened on a mere 43 SOG (20.9 percent).
With such high percentages in mind, it’s probably dangerous to pencil them in as point-per-game players, at least not until they start generating a little more offense on special teams. Regardless, the overarching point remains sound: like Marchand, Claude Lemieux, and select few, the Tkachuk brothers can hurt your soul, harm your body, and embarrass you on the scoreboard.
It remains to be seen if either Tkachuk can truly join Marchand in the NHL’s upper crust, but it sure seems like both stand a chance of using their wits to make a difference. After all, Marchand is a testament to agitating players sometimes being their own worst enemies.
As Ryan Pike recently explained for Flames Nation, there was a time when Matthew Tkachuk made some dumb decisions that landed him on the Department of Player Safety’s rolodex,* yet there are signs that he’s learning how to pick his spots. Instead of engaging Zach Kassian in a fight during a rowdy Battle of Alberta, Matthew decided not to take the bait, ultimately putting the Oilers in the penalty box for three minors:
* – Come on, they probably still ride the train and use typewriters, right?
Even earlier in his career, Matthew Tkachuk was drawing far more penalties than he was taking, as you can see from Natural Stat Trick’s handy penalties drawn/taken numbers.
Brady hasn’t mastered that art yet, but there are already signs of an advanced hockey IQ. Like Matthew, he’s beginning his career with more defensive zone starts than shifts beginning in the attacking zone, a sign that he has two-way smarts and the trust of his coach. That trust has been justified in each case, as both Tkachuk brothers are puck possession monsters so far.
The younger Tkachuk brother also showed some great vision and awareness in identifying this loose puck before anyone else, starting a run of consecutive shifts with goals during Ottawa’s comeback win against the Flyers on Tuesday:
The Tkachuk brothers seem to have the requisite “nose for the net” to score ugly goals, but let’s hope that they keep their mouthpieces in at key times. They don’t want to be like their father Keith, who apparently needed to transplant part of his hip bone during especially ghastly dental surgery after taking a puck to the face. Even trolls (probably) deserve better than that.
Again, it’s remarkable – and for opponents, unnerving – to realize how young these two are. Matthew’s proven to be a fantastic top-six forward, and he’s in the final year of his rookie deal at 20, setting the stage for a big raise. Brady, meanwhile, looks very much like a 19-year-old rookie, except when it comes to producing on the ice. If healthy, it’s tough to imagine Brady not at least being an honorable mention for the Calder.
Their great play might slip under the radar just a touch considering their struggling teams (Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is being compared to Larry David, after all), but opponents and opposing fan bases will find them both very difficult to ignore.
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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.