Boston University product Brady Tkachuk -- one of the best-known prospects heading into the 2018 NHL entry draft -- is cut from the same cloth as his dad, Keith Tkachuk, who scored 538 goals over an 18-year NHL career, and his brother, Matthew Tkachuk, who was the sixth overall pick by the Calgary Flames in the 2016 NHL draft and has already become one of the league's top agitators. Opinions vary on Brady's overall pro potential, but there's no doubt that the 18-year-old is a favorite among scouts for his competitiveness, physical strength and solid all-around game. The winger is in the mix to be among the top five players -- and first American -- selected once the draft opens in Dallas on Friday.
We asked a scout for a Western Conference team for a full, honest assessment of Brady Tkachuk's game, then gave our Insider -- and the Tkachuk brothers themselves -- a chance to critique the critiques. All stats listed are from Brady's 2017-18 college season.
Position: LW | Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 191 | Goals: 8 | Assists: 23 | Penalty minutes: 61
A Scout Says ...
He's ultra-competitive. He's going to run through the wall for you. He's going to want that puck and to win those battles. His competitive urge is stronger than everybody else's on the ice. That's the biggest strength he has.1 Once he gets comfortable and he knows he's stronger than you, you're done. He has that mentality. The Tkachuks are all like that.2 Matthew is ultra-competitive, too, but Brady has that little-brother syndrome. He's tougher, he's quieter and he's sneakier. He knows how to get into those spots and disrupt people but also how to maintain his cool.3 The [Tkachuk brothers] have been taught how to play the game. To go where the goals are scored. If they're not contributing on the score sheet, they know how to contribute with their physical game.4 Brady has the skill on top of it to be dangerous around the net. He has soft hands and can make plays and score goals. That's a rare combination (competitiveness, physicality and skill) in a player in this day and age, when the emphasis is on skating and speed. 5
As for his weaknesses ... even though he's a big kid, he's still a kid. He hasn't developed his core, that three-period body [that allows him] to control the game, go for long periods of time and not disappear. His body hasn't caught up to where his mind is yet. 6 The knock right now is his game speed -- and his ability to turn and get back down the ice. I think it's just a lack of strength, and not a skating issue. 7 I don't think he's ready for the NHL yet. He still needs one more year somewhere, whether it's back at BU or in the AHL or the OHL. He needs that time to develop -- not only his skill set, but his strength set. It all depends on who drafts him, though. I don't think he's too far away. I think he's a year away. 8 Long term, I see him as a top-line guy for sure. And he'll be put in situations where he's very dangerous 5-on-5, very dangerous when the game's on the line. 9
The Responses ...
2. Brady Tkachuk: When I know I'm strong on you, when it's fast and physical, you're not getting the puck from me. I'm probably going to laugh about it.
Chris Peters, ESPN Insider: You can almost see when Brady knows he's going to take over a game -- the early shifts where he's outmuscling his competition and getting chances near the net. He's like a dog on a bone. When he's in that mode, good luck.
3. Matthew Tkachuk: I don't think he's sneakier [than me], but it definitely takes a lot to get him really, really, really angry. That probably just comes from me being hard on him when we were being younger. I was always trying to physically dominate him. If someone makes him mad, he'll definitely go out of his way to get him back.
Peters: I had to laugh when I heard this, because Matthew can be pretty sneaky, too. Brady is definitely more reserved, though. He doesn't take penalties out of frustration, which is important for a player who plays his style of game.
4. Matthew Tkachuk: When we were younger -- and even now -- [Dad] wanted us to be around the net. He wanted us to have the puck the whole game. There's nothing better than winning and scoring goals, and around the net is where a lot of the goals are scored. Rebounds are probably the highest-percentage scoring chances.
5. Matthew Tkachuk: I don't think [his skill] is talked about as much as it should be. His offense is a lot better than people give him credit for.
Peters: One aspect of Brady's game that I've always viewed as a standout trait for him is his offensive smarts. He has the big frame and the soft hands, but he also has great vision, which allows him to find teammates and set up scoring chances. He's not going to stickhandle around defenders, but he's going to use his size to extend plays and get his shot or pass off no matter how much pressure he's under.
6. Brady Tkachuk: I agree to an extent. I was 5-foot-9, 145 [pounds] when I went to the U.S. [National Team Development Program in 2015]. Now I'm 6-foot-3 1/2, 196. I feel like my body is just starting to grow. I think I can put on pounds and strength this year. Sometimes I can't hold a three-period game. The way I play, I can run out of energy pretty quick. I have flashes where that happens, but the majority of the time I can play a full 60.
Peters: This surprised me a little bit to hear, because when I've watched Brady, he's often so much stronger than everyone else. After seeing him at the scouting combine, it became much clearer. As big as he is now, he still hasn't fully developed, which is honestly scary to think about. The conditioning aspect is absolutely true as well. He still needs to build up that endurance.
7. Peters: This is something I've consistently heard from scouts throughout the season, but most mention they feel the same as this scout, that his strength will make him a better skater. There's a gap between speed and quickness and I think he has more of the former than the latter.
Matthew Tkachuk: I'm not a big fan of when people say he's a bad skater. I think those people don't know hockey too much. I just think he's a powerful skater already. For a big guy, he moves well. When he's coming at you wide, he's tough because he gets his body in the way and you're not touching that puck. One thing that could get better is his lateral quickness.
8. Brady Tkachuk: I'm going to disagree with that a bit. After a big summer, I'm hoping to put on 10 pounds of strength, and I think I have a lot of time to do that. I definitely feel like I could step in next year and make an impact. He's right, though, that there is no rush. If I have any sense of doubt, not being able to make it or contribute, I'm not afraid to go back to BU.
Peters: I think the team that drafts him is going to have a strong interest in signing him and giving him at least a taste of the NHL. He has the hockey sense to play at that level, just as his brother did following his draft year. But he's going to need a big, strength-building summer to have a chance to come into camp and earn a spot. If he doesn't make the [NHL] team full time, I think he could go to the American Hockey League and learn the pro pace while making sure he continues to develop his strength. If that's too much, then the London Knights hold his OHL rights, and he can go there. If Brady doesn't sign, another year at Boston University wouldn't hurt because he can focus on strength training and mastering that level before moving on.
Matthew Tkachuk: He could definitely play in the NHL year -- 100 percent, he could play in the NHL next year.
9. Peters: The versatility Brady brings to the table is going to allow him to play a lot of different roles. His ceiling is certainly that of a top-line player, but even if he doesn't top out there, he does enough well that he'd find ways to make an impact for most teams.
Matthew Tkachuk: I think he's a first-line scoring center who is a guy on your team who could be a future captain and can play in every situation. I think his ceiling could be something like [Dallas Stars forward] Jamie Benn.