BUFFALO, N.Y. — With a last name such as his, Brady Tkachuk’s life has unsurprisingly revolved around hockey.
Whether it was breaking basement windows or the garage door playing with his father Keith and older brother Matthew, or heading to the rink to attend Blues practices, the 18-year-old has plenty of childhood memories while growing up in St. Louis.
“We’d go on the ice before they practiced and there were some guys who would come out like David Perron, David Backes, T.J. Oshie,” Tkachuk said at the NHL pre-draft combine on Saturday, referring to his father’s former teammates. “And those guys would spend their time, while Matthew and I were skating around, passing and shooting and joking around with us. Those were some of my big memories.”
Keith Tkachuk is considered one of the game’s top Americans during a 19-year NHL career that ended in 2010. Matthew, 20, is already in the NHL after completing his second season with the Calgary Flames.
At the rate Brady Tkachuk is developing, there’s a very good chance he’ll enjoy more memorable moments in the near future.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 196 pounds, and still growing, Tkachuk is ranked second among North American draft-eligible prospects by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau. That puts the forward in the mix to be among the top five players — and first American — selected once the draft opens at Dallas on June 22.
Much like his father, Tkachuk has a combination of hard-hitting and play-making components to his game. He had eight goals and 31 points, plus 61 penalty minutes in 40 games in his freshman season at Boston University.
He also has leadership potential after serving as captain of the bronze-medal-winning U.S. team at the World Junior hockey championships last winter.
“He’s a complete package that can be impactful in every situation with and without the puck,” central scouting bureau director Dan Marr said. “He knows what needs to be done, and he’s not afraid to get dirty to go out and do it. But he also has the skills and finesse to play that type of a game to win you the game.”
The world junior tournament became Tkachuk’s coming out party in finishing tied for fifth among tournament players with nine points. It carried over into the second half of his college season, where he had four goals and 17 points in his final 21 games in helping the Terriers clinch just their eighth Hockey East tournament championship.
Tkachuk credited his improved production to learning how to play against older opponents.
“I was used to winning battles, every battle in the USHL because they’re all my own age. But I found playing against 23-year-olds was different,” he said. “Instead of just using my body, I had to use my mind, too, a little bit more and try to outsmart them.”
What stands out is Tkachuk’s outgoing personality.
He wasn’t afraid to joke during pre-draft interviews with prospective teams in saying how better looking he was than other players. And then there’s the picture accompanying Tkachuk’s combine profile, which features him with an upturned-lip smirk.
“I like the smirk,” Tkachuk said. “I’ve done it before and a lot of guys think it’s funny. It’s just my personality.”
It helps not feeling intimidated being around NHLers, given his upbringing. He developed in a youth hockey system in St. Louis that included the sons of former NHL stars such as Chris Pronger, Al MacInnis and Jeff Brown.
Tkachuk doesn’t feel burdened by having to live up to his last name. Instead, it’s motivation in fueling him to match what his father did in ranking fifth among American-born scorers with 1,065 points, and to one day keep pace with his brother, who already has 37 goals and 97 points in 144 games with Calgary.
The competition could begin on draft day, when Tkachuk has a chance to be selected higher than his father (taken 19th in 1990) and brother (No. 6, in 2016).
That would be fine with everyone, Keith Tkachuk said.
“I would love that,” the proud father said, before breaking into a laugh. “And Matthew would like it because he doesn’t want to sit in the stands too long watching.”
Brady Tkachuk joked, the only concern is if he gets drafted by Edmonton, and the potential of one day pitting the two Tkachuks against each other in the ever-intense Alberta rivalry between the Oilers and Flames.
“It’s definitely been discussed in my family,” Tkachuk said. “It would be pretty cool, but I think it would be pretty stressful for the mom.”