Keith Tkachuk

Keith chuckles at son Brady Tkachuk’s fight with Red Wings’ Ericsson

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For many parents, seeing their kids suffer through pain hurts more than personally experiencing it.

But when it’s sort of losing a fight in a lower-stakes kind of way, maybe you can chuckle? At least, maybe you do when you’re Keith Tkachuk, and you’ve raised two true hockey ragamuffins in Brady Tkachuk and Matthew Tkachuk. Chances are, Keith’s probably more preoccupied with getting his sons not to obnoxiously dangle their mouthpieces out of their mouths.

(And, yeah, maybe to make sure Matthew doesn’t get hosed on his second contract.)

Anyway, Keith was on hand to see – and chuckle at – Brady, the younger of the two NHL Tkachuk kids, getting into a fight with Jonathan Ericsson of the Detroit Red Wings. It’s probably fair to say that Ericsson got the better of Brady, but judge for yourself in the video above this post’s headline, via Sportsnet.

Judging by Hockey Fights’ listings, the family fight counts are now unofficially:

Brady: Three. He’s a rookie, so he’s clearly endearing himself to opponents already.

Matthew: Seven through three seasons.

Keith: 51 fights during 1,201 regular-season and 89 playoff contests.

Considering the temperaments of the Tkachuk brothers and father, chances are we’ll see more scuffles for both Brady and Matthew before they hopefully enjoy retirement as much as Keith seems to be enjoying it. And then there can be aggravating, skilled Tkachuk grandsons.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Tkachuk brothers keep proving they’re not just trolls

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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.

Smart pests

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:

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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.

/gags

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.

And stop.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Brady Tkachuk on life at BU, 2018 NHL Draft, growing up with hockey (PHT Q&A)

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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.