Brady Tkachuk is at his best when he’s agitated and playing on the edge, skills he honed at the proven training ground: his home.
Known as a power forward with a balance of finesse and physicality, Brady Tkachuk is the younger brother of Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk and the son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk.
“There’s a little switch,” Brady Tkachuk said of his game. “I’m a friendly guy off the ice, but on the ice, I’m a different guy and I’m pretty physical and I’m not afraid of anybody out there.”
The six-foot-three, 196-pound Boston University product learned at an early age how to keep up with his older brother and his NHL-playing dad whether it was hockey on the driveway or the good, old-fashioned art of chirping.
“He’s a goofy kid so it’s good,” Keith Tkachuk said. “We’re a competitive family. There’s no freebies in our house, everybody was on guard. I think he’s learned a lot, but his brother is still a way better chirper than he is. Brady is tougher than his brother.”
He may not be the better chirper, but he almost certainly will be able to hold his draft status above his older brother. Matthew was selected sixth overall by the Flames at the 2016 draft while Brady is expected to hear his name called within the first five picks of this month’s NHL Draft in Dallas.
Former Calgary Flames executive turned analyst Brian Burke got to know the Tkachuks up close the past couple years and got a first-hand peek at their competitiveness.
“I asked Matthew: tell me the difference. He said, ‘Well Brady is bigger than I am, and he’s a better skater than I am and he’s got better hands than I have’,” Burke recalled. “And so I said, ‘Well is he going to be the better player?’ And he said ‘Hell no’.”
As a freshman with the Terriers this season, Brady Tkachuk scored eight goals and 23 assists as BU won the Hockey East Conference championship and was named to the conference all-rookie team.
Internationally, the St. Louis native represented the U.S. at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship added nine points in seven games as the Americans won bronze.
Tkachuk’s time with the Americans at the Under-20 tournament left a lasting impression on assistant coach Grant Potulny.
“He is as throwback and as old-school of a hockey player as there is,” Potulny said. “Always has a smile on his face. Off the rink, is the most fun-loving, full of life kid you’ll ever meet, but the moment that he steps over the boards and he’s gets on that ice sheet, he’s a fierce competitor.”
Potulny, who coaches Northern Michigan University, sees similarities between Tkachuk and a recent Stanley Cup winner.
“He reminds me of Tom Wilson where he can play with the best players on your team and he can score and he can make plays, he can play with a (Evgeny) Kuztnetsov and an (Alex) Ovechkin, but he can also, when you’ve got to play on the edge, he can play right on the edge with anybody.
“He can standup for his teammates and create space for them and get his nose right in there. He won’t back down from anybody. I think personally for me he’s a kind of a bit of a Tom Wilson in the making.”
The physical nature of Brady Tkachuk’s game came from battles with Matthew when the two were growing up in St. Louis.
“I think it comes from whatever we’ve done at home,” he said. “I feel like basketball, mini sticks, road hockey - it got pretty physical, couple fights here and there. We haven’t fought in a while, its all verbal now. Competitive nature came through in all those sports growing up.”
The battles between the brothers also took a toll on the family home.
“Broken windows, finally my dad had to put some plexiglass,” said Brady Tkachuk. “He got the Blues guys to come over and put some plexiglass on the windows and broken garage doors and when we played mini sticks, there’s a bunch of holes in the wall.”
Keith Tkachuk was happy to pay for the repairs around the house so long as his kids were staying active.
“I remember sitting down and they were outside playing, it was great our kids were active, I’m all for that,” Keith Tkachuk said. “They were always out shooting pucks on roller blades. All of a sudden, I’m sitting down and I see a puck come right through, shatters my window. That happened multiple times. So finally I hooked up with some of the staff at the Scottrade Center and they put the plexiglass in replacing the window.
“It made a lot of noise when they hit it, it cost me a lot of money to replace that glass, but hey, it was well worth it.”
Keith Tkachuk played 18 seasons in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues and Atlanta Thrashers amassing 1,065 points and 2,219 penalty minutes in 1,201 regular season games.
He also represented the U.S. on the international stage suiting up in the 1991 and 1992 World Junior Hockey Championships, the 1992, 1998, 2002 and 2006 Olympic games and the 1996 and 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
Part of the growing up process for the boys was hanging out with dad at work.
“You have to spend valuable time with your family,” said Keith Tkachuk. “Our family vacations were about sports. But anytime I could bring my kids around the rink or coach them or get to a practice in between games, that’s something, I think, once I retired, I spent every single moment with them and that was really important moving forward.”
For Brady Tkachuk, the best part about growing up with an NHL-playing dad wasn’t about going to games and sitting two rows up from the ice.
“I think it was the practices for me,” he said. “Matthew and I would go on weekends or even once in a while skip school, didn’t want to tell the teachers, but we’d go to the practices, go on the ice before they practice and some guys would come out like David Backes, David Perron, TJ Oshie, those guys would spend their time with us. While Matthew and I were skating around they were passing pucks, shooting and joking around with us. Those are some of the memories we have.”
They were also learning from dad’s teammates in the process.
Keith Tkachuk seems similarities between his youngest boy and a few of his former teammates.
“He’s got that bull in a china shop (style) like David Backes, he’s strong on the puck,” he said. “The strongest guy I ever played with, ever in my career in professional hockey, was Marian Hossa.
“(Brady) does have strength on his skates, which I still think he’s working on his training and his leg strength, but he protects the puck really ell and sort of, not saying he’s that type of player, but he has that strength in one-on-one battles like Marian did.”
As he looks to make the jump from college hockey to the NHL for the fall, Tkachuk says he’ll continue to work on his strength and his skating.
“I definitely felt after world juniors I kept elevating my game and I felt a lot better out there. Felt like I was playing a lot more with the puck and dominating down low,” he said. “I definitely focused on working out, we work out twice a week at Boston so I definitely felt like I got stronger and I was on the ice as much as I can before practices and after practices - definitely felt like my skills improved, but I have a big summer and I’m going to keep doing that.”
Just as they do on the ice, the Tkachuks will have a noticeable presence in the seats at the American Airlines Center – the site of the 2018 NHL Draft. The family is expected to have upwards of 90 friends and family in attendance for the event.