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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.

What will the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame class look like?

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Seven inductees will be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night in Toronto. So now that the 2017 group is getting honored, who should looking forward to getting a special phone call at the end of June letting them know that they’re a part of the 2018 class?

There’s definitely one lock and his name is Martin Brodeur. You don’t need a rundown of his resume to understand why he’s destined for the Hall. There are two players who are in the “probably, most likely” category to join him: Daniel Alfredsson and Martin St. Louis.

‘Alfie’ played 1,246 games, scored 444 goals and posted 1,157 points. He won the Calder Trophy, King Clancy Trophy, an esteemed Mark Messier Leadership Award, and was a six-time All-Star. Internationally, he won Olympic gold and silver medals and two silvers and two bronze medals with Sweden at the World Championship.

[Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2017 grew the game in many ways]

The undrafted St. Louis established himself with the Tampa Bay Lightning, helping the franchise to its first Stanley Cup championship in 2004. That same year he won the Hart, Art Ross and Pearson Trophies. Later in his career he would win three Lady Byng Trophies. Playing for Canada, he was part of gold medal winning teams that won the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and 2014 Olympics. After 1,134 NHL games, he finished with 391 goals and 1,033 points.

Both have a solid case: Strong NHL totals, individual hardware and international success.

Now it gets interesting. There are some good cases to be made to have another NHL player or two join Brodeur, Alfredsson and St. Louis. Here are our favorites for Hall inclusion next November.

Boris Mikhailov — The man Herb Brooks loved to remind his “Miracle on Ice” team looked like Stan Laurel had a decorated career playing for CSKA Moscow and representing the Soviet Union internationally. Domestically, Mikhailov scored 429 goals for CSKA and recorded 653 points, leading them to 11 Soviet League titles. On the international scene, the long time captain captured two Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships. And remember that it’s not the “NHL Hall of Fame,” but the “Hockey Hall of Fame.”

Sergei Zubov — His 771 points puts him in the top 20 of all-time among defensemen, as does his .72 points per game average. He has the 12th-most playoff points for defensemen with 112. Only Sergei Gonchar has more goals and points than Zubov among Russian blue liners. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup winner, four-time All-Star, and gold medalist at the Olympics and World Junior Championship. If Nicklas Lidstrom hadn’t dominated so much, how much more love would have been sent Zubov’s way?

Alexander Mogilny — He was the first Soviet player to defect west and when he arrived he quickly made his mark. His 76-goal 1992-93 season tied him for the league’s goal scoring lead with Teemu Selanne as he ended up with a 127-point campaign. A year later he was named the first European captain in NHL history by the Buffalo Sabres. When it was all said and done, the six-time All-Star had scored 473 goals and recorded 1,032 points. He’s a member of the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club, which means you’re a winner of the Stanley Cup, Olympics and World Championship.

The Hall of Very Good

There seems to be a desire to have no middle ground between those in the Hall and those on the outside looking in. You’re either a Hall of Famer or you’re a plug. It’s OK to have some very good players left on the outside. That’s what should make the Hall of Fame so special. There are a number of very good eligible players currently awaiting the call who may never get the honor.

Jeremy Roenick — 513 goals, 1,216 points, 1996 World Cup of Hockey champion, nine-time All-Star, silver medals at Canada Cup and Olympic Games.

JR’s elite level status only last for a few seasons in the early 1990s. After three-straight 100-point and 45-plus goal seasons, his production settled into the “very good” range in the mid-90s. While he certainly has the “fame” part down with the personality he’s shown during and after his NHL career, as well as his influential role in the 1996 movie Swingers, he did not win any individual hardware, so it’s likely he’ll continue to have a tough time finding a way in.

Keith Tkachuk — 538 goals, 1,065 points, 1996 World Cup of Hockey champion, Olympic silver medal.

Like Roenick, Tkachuk’s numbers are good, but he’s in a range where there are a handful of players with similar stats. While Joe Mullen’s inclusion may help Tkachuk or Roenick at some point in time, right now, he’s just on the outside with his Team USA buddy.

Pierre Turgeon —515 goals, 1,327 points, Lady Byng Trophy, five-time All-Star.

A very good player for a very long time. But other than a Byng, no other individual honors to help him standout from the rest.

Theo Fleury —455 goals, 1,088 points, seven-time All-Star, gold at the World Junior Championship, Canada Cup and Olympics, silver at the World Championship and World Cup of Hockey, 1989 Stanley Cup winner.

You’d love to see Fleury get in just looking at how he made a successful career out his talents, but he’s right there for me.

Doug Wilson — 237 goals, 827 points, 1982 Norris Trophy winner, eight-time All-Star, Canada Cup gold.

You don’t hear the San Jose Sharks general manager’s name much when these discussions come up. But examine his career and it was a pretty solid one. Top 20 in points, top 10 in points per game. Like Andreychuk this year, there are always some surprise inclusions every few years. Would it be a surprise if Wilson’s name is called one of these days?

Chris Osgood — 401 wins, 50 shutouts, three-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Jennings Trophy winner.

A good goalie on some great Detroit Red Wings teams for a long time. How much has that hurt his candidacy?

Curtis Joseph — 454 wins, 51 shutouts, Olympic gold medal (though he was replaced by Brodeur after one game.)

A three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, Joseph had himself a fine career but unlike Osgood didn’t win a Cup. Is he Hall of Fame class or Hall of Very Good class?

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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.