We’ve officially reached the point in our rankings where the lines separating one player from another become razor thin. As we round the corner past the top 20 and into the top 10, it’s no longer a question of whether or not a player is worthy of selection. Every player profiled from here on out is a fantastic prospect, likely with an NHL future in front of them. In this draft, there are basically three tiers in the top ten: the elite players, the guys we like a lot, and the guys we like a little less. Somewhat controversially, Brady Tkachuk is a guy we like a little less. He’s got an enviable set of tools, and scouts love him, but there are also some things in his profile that register as head-scratchers at best and red flags at worst. Because there’s a level of uncertainty that comes attached to Brady Tkachuk, he comes in at number 9 on our yearly rankings.
- Age/Birthplace: 17.99 / September 16, 1999
- Birthplace: St. Louis, MO, USA
- Frame: 6’3″/ 196 lbs
- Position: C
- Handedness: L
- Draft Year Team: Boston University (NCAA)
5v5 Pr INV%
Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
It’s easy to see why scouts love Tkachuk. While he lacks any one elite skill, he does everything well and always looks engaged. He’s not the most dynamic skater but he has good straight-line speed that he can match with his puck-handling skills. His shot is better than his counting stats suggest amen he’d likely have a few more goals to his credit if he hadn’t experienced some bad luck which resulted in a paltry shooting percentage of 6%. Like his brother, he’s more of a playmaker than a shooter, and he can thread cross-ice passes through traffic with regularity. His biggest asset is how he can use his size and power to create space. He doesn’t just skate around defenders, he skates through them, too. How much that ability translates to the NHL remains to be seen, but it certainly catches the eye at the college level. He’s also one of the best two-way players in the draft, as evidenced by the massive effect he’s had on his teammates goal-differential.
There are two issues that arise with Tkachuk. The first is that he was pushed to wing in his freshman year in college and it’s unclear if he really projects as the centre he’s listed as. The second, and more important concern is that he hasn’t flashed high-end skill despite being the oldest first-time eligible player in this year’s class (he missed the cut-off for last year’s draft by a single day). When looking at his development, it’s as fair to compare him to prospects from the 2017 draft as it is to compare him to his fellow 2018-eligibles.
Unfortunately, even for a young player in college, Tkachuk’s numbers don’t stand out among his peers. Shane Bowers, for instance, is just over a month older than Tkachuk and they put up remarkably similar numbers. Even the most optimistic of projections see Bowers as a likely middle-six player and he went 28th overall in the 2017 draft, far lower than where Tkachuk is ranked. Fellow 2018-eligible Quinn Hughes can also lend perspective to Tkachuk’s season. He’s a month younger, 5 inches shorter, and plays defense, but scored just two less points than Tkachuk in three fewer games. If the excuse is that it’s hard to put up numbers in college, I’m not buying it. A player who’s projected by some to go in the top three simply needs to impress more.
Despite clocking in at number four in the consolidated draft rankings, there isn’t a meaningful statistical category where Tkachuk has separated himself from the pack. When viewed through the lens of draft analytics, Tkachuk ranks in the bottom half of the first round or lower in expected likelihood of success; expected production; expected value; and situation, era, age, and league adjusted scoring.
While pGPS likely undersells Tkachuk to some extent, (he’s a virtual lock to be full-time NHLer as soon as next year,) it’s handle on his upside appears dead-on. Both statistically and by the eye-test, Tkachuk looks like a better bet to play in a team’s middle-six than to be a high-end driver of offence.
Tkachuk’s list of statistical matches is littered with nice pieces like Drew Stafford, Riley Nash, and Chris Kreider; but they”re not exactly the kind of players you build a team around. Even Ryan Kesler and Kyle Turris would probably be best classified as very good second-line centres on a contending team. The one exception that’s bound to give everyone pause is Brady’s dad Keith. If he’s the second coming of his dad, that would really be something. That matter is far from settled, however.
The other comparison that’s arisen over the course of his draft year is his brother, Matthew. Like his brother, Matthew was also the subject of some (in my opinion unearned) skepticism from the analytics community who went on to make the Flames out of camp and has had an impressive start to his NHL career. Brady, to his credit, has been called bigger, faster, and nastier than his brother not once, but twice in the national media. What he hasn’t proven is that he’s more talented. Even dating back to his time with the USNTDP, Matthew was a far, far more prolific offensive contributor; albeit with better linemates.
This isn’t to say Tkachuk isn’t a good prospect. There’s a reason scouts are so high on him, and even we had to admit his inputs were strong enough to land him in the top ten. His status as the ninth best prospect in this year’s crop says more about the players ahead of him than it does about Tkachuk. Every single player in the 1-8 slot has the potential to be a very good first-line forward or first-pairing defenceman. We can’t say the same with any level of certainty for Tkachuk- yet. Now it’s up to him to prove the doubters wrong, like his brother and father before him.
TSN Bob McKenzie
TSN Craig Button
The Hockey News
“The elder statesman of the 2018 crop missed last year’s draft by a single day. That should and will factor into his evaluation. Had an adequate season as one of the younger players in the NCAA, but his lights out World Junior showing moved the needle for many. His hands are soft, his shot his heavy and he plays an abrasive, pro-style game.”