You have to like what you’ve seen from Matthew Tkachuk this season.
That’s an unusual statement to make for a player who just received a suspension for a dirty play, but if you’re a Flames fan, how can you see it any differently?
Here’s the elbow Tkachuk delivered to LA Kings defenceman Drew Doughty that triggered a two-game suspension:
On Tuesday, the Flames expressed their disappointment in the decision.
“While we are disappointed with the league’s verdict, we nonetheless respect the process and that the League has issued its ruling,” Flames GM Brad Treliving said in a team-released statement. “Both the Flames and Matthew accept the decision. Our sole focus now is on preparing for our game tonight in Washington, while Matthew will spend the next few days getting ready to return to the line-up on Saturday in St. Louis.”
While it’s difficult to determine intent, this is absolutely not an acceptable play by Tkachuk, and not something he should get in the habit of doing.
But moving beyond that, you have to be impressed at how the spotlight hasn’t gotten the best of Tkachuk this season. He’s playing his game.
The 19-year-old has done far more than expected already in his first NHL season. It’s more than the point totals – 46 points (13-33-46) in 68 games – although that’s impressive. It’s how he’s carrying himself.
Instead of scurrying against a player like Doughty, he went right at him.
That’s been the case a lot this season, as Tkachuk’s 96 penalty minutes indicate.
In the history of the NHL, only six other rookies with 100+ penalty minutes have put up more points than Tkachuk has this season. His father, Keith, was one of them. The elder Tkachuk scored 51 points – five more than Matthew has – to go along with 201 PIMs with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93.
There’s so much to like about Tkachuk, and he’s only 19. As he matures and improves, he promises to be the type of power forward not seen in Calgary since Jarome Iginla. And that’s something to get excited about.