Tkachuk set to cap off incredible year at draft

Aaron Vickers2016 Draft Center, OHL

Matthew Tkachuk has had a big year. It’s about to get even bigger.

Tkachuk is about to cap a 2015-16 campaign that rivals any of his peers by gracing the stage at First Niagara Center as a first round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

But he’s not counting.

“You never know what’s going to happen (at the draft),” Tkachuk said. “I’m going to be okay with anything that happens.”

Expectations are high for a plethora of prospects. Tkachuk isn’t sweating them.

He didn’t on the ice, either.

Tkachuk recorded 30 goals and 107 points in 57 games with the London Knights. He added an Ontario Hockey League leading 20 goals, and had 40 points in 18 playoff games to help London to the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL champions.

He scored five goals — two in the tournament final including the overtime winner — and eight points on a badly sprained ankle en route to a Memorial Cup championship.

“I just think I’m an offensive player who is good down low and is hard to play against below the dots, takes pucks to the net and scores some goals,” said Tkachuk, who also chipped in four goals and 11 points for Team USA at the World Junior Championship at Christmas, and captained Team Orr at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January.

He’s being modest.

“Tkachuk is a strong power forward with a blistering shot and a determination that makes you take notice,” Future Considerations scout Daniel Deschenes said. “He will claw his way through every battle and work until he comes out with the puck. He has a chip on his shoulder as he drives to the net with and without the puck looking to create something.

“He plays the game with intensity, knows where he needs to be, and anticipates both defensive and offensive situations at an extremely high level. Outside of the top three, Tkachuk is one of the top options available for a team looking to add grit, scoring, and a well rounded game to their wings.”

It’s not unlike similar praise from teammates.

“He’s so strong, especially if he gets the puck near the boards or behind the net,” said Knights defenseman Olli Juolevi, who is also eligible for the draft. “He’s good at keeping the puck and using his big body. He’s a really smart guy. He can make good plays and passes.

“He’s a smart kid, and a very strong guy.”

And a big name for the 2016 NHL Draft class.