Can Matthew Tkachuk make the NHL right away?

Updated: September 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm by Ari Yanover

It isn’t common for players to make the NHL right out of their draft year. Out of the Flames’ current kids, Sean Monahan was the only one to achieve that feat. The rest of their current core took longer to reach where they now are.

This isn’t a bad thing, though. Typically, only a handful of players actually make the NHL right after they’re drafted. The first overall picks always do, plus a handful of others – almost always only guys chosen in the top 10.

Does Matthew Tkachuk have what it takes? Maybe – let’s take a look at what players who made the NHL immediately this decade have in common.

Note that this doesn’t include players who stuck around for nine-game tryouts and were subsequently sent back down – these are all players who burned a year of their entry-level contracts.

2010

Player # Overall Birthday Height Weight Position Draft Year PPG
Taylor Hall 1 Nov. 14 6’1″ 194 lbs. LW 1.9 (OHL)
Tyler Seguin 2 Jan. 31 6’1″ 182 lbs. C 1.7 (OHL)
Jeff Skinner 7 May 16 5’10” 193 lbs. LW 1.4 (OHL)
Alexander Burmistrov 8 Oct. 21 6’1″ 180 lbs. C 1.0 (OHL)
Cam Fowler 12 Dec. 5 6’1″ 190 lbs. D 1.0 (OHL)

Every player to step straight into the NHL from the 2010 draft came out of the first round, were of decent size, were all at least a point per game or higher, and out of the OHL. Skinner is the only exception among the group in that he was notably younger than the other four; while Burmistrov and Hall were among the older members of the draft class, Skinner, by being a spring birthday, skewed towards the younger end.

2011

Player # Overall Birthday Height Weight Position Draft Year PPG
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1 Apr. 12 6’0″ 171 lbs. C 1.5 (WHL)
Gabriel Landeskog 2 Nov. 23 6’1″ 204 lbs. LW 1.2 (OHL)
Adam Larsson 4 Nov. 12 6’3″ 197 lbs. D 0.2 (SEL)
Sean Couturier 8 Dec. 7 6’3″ 197 lbs. C 1.7 (QMJHL)
Andrew Shaw* 139 Jul. 20 5’10” 180 lbs. C 0.8 (OHL)

* Shaw was 19 years old when he was drafted, and he spent half of his season in the AHL.

Shaw aside, every player is once again from the first round, and is a bit bigger (Nugent-Hopkins’ weight – and youth, for that matter – aside). Larsson was the only one to not put up particularly great offensive numbers, but he was already playing professionally at that point – though it’s worth noting that after his draft+1 season, he bounced up and down between the AHL and NHL. The 2015-16 season was his first full season in the NHL, in fact.

2012

Player # Overall Birthday Height Weight Position Draft Year PPG
Nail Yakupov 1 Oct. 6 5’11” 185 lbs. RW 1.6 (OHL)
Alex Galchenyuk 3 Feb. 12 6’0″ 194 lbs. C 1.3** (OHL)
Mikhail Grigorenko 12 May 16 6’3″ 200 lbs. C 1.4 (QMJHL)

** This is from Galchenyuk’s draft-1 year – he was injured throughout his draft year.

It should also be noted this draft is an oddity, as there was a lockout that wiped out half of the season following it. (Also, there was some questions surrounding Grigorenko’s age, and if he was lying about being as young as he was.)

2013

Player # Overall Birthday Height Weight Position Draft Year PPG
Nathan MacKinnon 1 Sept. 1 6’0″ 182 lbs. C 1.7 (QMJHL)
Aleksander Barkov 2 Sept. 2 6’3″ 209 lbs. C 0.9 (SM-liiga)
Seth Jones 4 Oct. 3 6’3″ 205 lbs. D 0.9 (WHL)
Elias Lindholm 5 Dec. 2 6’0″ 192 lbs. C 0.6 (SEL)
Sean Monahan 6 Oct. 12 6’2″ 187 lbs. C 1.3 (OHL)
Rasmus Ristolainen 8 Oct. 27 6’4″ 207 lbs. D 0.3 (SM-liiga)
Valeri Nichushkin 10 March 4 6’4″ 202 lbs. RW 0.3 (KHL)

The 2013 draft was a pretty big one for players immediately making it (although Ristolainen did spend half of his season in the AHL). Most of the players are older, although both MacKinnon and Barkov were actually among the youngest members of the draft class. Still, all seven players to immediately make the leap were pretty big, with four of them already playing professionally. And again, of course, all were top 10 picks.

2014

Player # Overall Birthday Height Weight Position Draft Year PPG
Aaron Ekblad 1 Feb. 7 6’3″ 216 lbs. D 0.9 (OHL)
Leon Draisaitl*** 3 Oct. 27 6’1″ 204 lbs. C 1.6 (WHL)
David Pastrnak 25 May 25 6’0″ 167 lbs. RW 0.7 (SWE-1)

*** Draisaitl was sent back to the WHL after 37 games.

I should also note that Pastrnak split time between the NHL and AHL, though he’s clearly the exception to this relatively small group, being taken towards the end of the first round, younger, and notably smaller.

2015

Player # Overall Birthday Height Weight Position Draft Year PPG
Connor McDavid 1 Jan. 13 6’0″ 195 lbs. C 2.6 (OHL)
Jack Eichel 2 Oct. 28 6’2″ 196 lbs. C 1.8 (NCAA)
Noah Hanifin 5 Jan. 25 6’2″ 203 lbs. D 0.6 (NCAA)
Daniel Sprong*** 46 Mar. 17 6’0″ 180 lbs. RW 1.3 (QMJHL)

*** Sprong went back to the QMJHL after 18 games.

Again: earlier picks, none particularly young for their class, and all a bit bigger – though this is the first time we’re seeing college kids pop up.

Matthew Tkachuk

Tkachuk was taken sixth overall. He’s a Dec. 11 birthday, so he isn’t among the youngest of his draft class – in fact, due to being a December birthday, his only options for next seasons are playing in the OHL or NHL (but because of said birthday, he’s AHL-eligible for 2017-18). He’s listed as 6’1″ and 202 lbs., so he’s definitely on the bigger side, and his draft year point-per-game was 1.9.

All in all, Tkachuk shares a lot in common with most of the few players who have been able to make the jump straight to the NHL after being drafted. This doesn’t make him a lock, but it probably does help his chances. He’s a relatively high first rounder already of NHL size, and while his points per game were probably inflated by his linemates, he still has one of the highest out of anyone who actually has immediately made the NHL in this decade: tied with Hall, and only bested by McDavid.

We know the Flames have a need for high-end wingers, which is exactly what Tkachuk projects to be. So really, there shouldn’t be anything holding him back this training camp – it’ll be strictly up to him to make the team, and convince the Flames he deserves to go beyond nine games after that.