#3: Matthew Tkachuk
Team: Calgary Flames
Drafted: 2016 #6 (Round 1)
Last Year Rank: #5
Let’s just get this out of the way now. If the NHL had any other rookie class other than the stacked one we saw last season, Tkachuk would’ve been in the running for the Calder trophy. Tkachuk finished seventh in voting last season.
What more can be said about Tkachuk other than he kept succeeding no matter the challenge that was given to him. Whenever he was questioned, he answered emphatically on the ice. Part of that came from his perfectly-suited linemates in Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik but there was something special about watching Tkachuk play last season.
His grit was almost unparalleled especially for a rookie, as he immediately went to battle against some of the toughest stars in the NHL. His playmaking touch was also a nice bonus as he put up 48 points in 76 games which easily outscored the rookie seasons of both Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan.
Tkachuk also showed a lot of growth over the course of the season in terms of limiting penalties. Of course he finished with a whopping 105 PIM. Read this great piece from March about Tkachuk’s evolution. Indeed it was amazing to see him cut back on the penalties, even with his late season suspension. In fact in the 28 games after the All-Star break, he only had 13 PIM (7 of which came in the Kings revenge game) compared to a staggering 92 PIM in his first 48 games.
When all was said and done, Tkachuk made a heck of an impact in his first season and that’s all that you can ask for from a rookie. It’ll be very fun to watch his game continue to progress this upcoming season as he mixes stellar offensive play with elite agitating. He’s one of those players you hate to play against but love having on your team.