PLYMOUTH, MICH. – Fair warning for any NCAA or NHL players who intend on stepping up to Brady Tkachuk in the future: even his big brother doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Matthew Tkachuk, who is coming off a fantastic – and physical – rookie season with the Calgary Flames, has seen his little brother grow substantially over the years. And now, watching the NTDP product play at USA Hockey’s World Junior Summer Showcase, he is seeing a beast in the making.
“He was a good little brother,” Matthew said. “When I had the size advantage, I think I toughened him up a little bit. But now, I would not mess with him. He’s a little bigger and I think a lot stronger than I am. He looks really fast and he’s going to have a great year.”
Brady was the second-youngest player left on Team USA’s roster when the side chopped down mid-week (Quinn Hughes being the youngest). Not only that, but he played left wing on the top line in a win against Finland, playing with Montreal first-rounder Ryan Poehling and deadly New Jersey pick Joey Anderson.
“He plays the game at an extremely high level, with energy,” said Team USA coach Bob Motzko. “You can see, as he gets stronger, he’s going to be not very fun to play against. He’s rugged, he’s gonna bang around, he’s got hockey sense…he’s just going to get better and better. He’s the type of player you want around.”
A late 1999 birthday, Tkachuk is eligible for the draft in 2018, where he is shaping up to be a top-five pick. And like his father, the legendary Keith Tkachuk, he’s going to attend Boston University, starting in the fall.
“That’s the place I’ve always wanted to go to, since I was little,” Brady said. “My dad went there, so I’ve always had a love for the school.”
The youngster is also very high on coach David Quinn and his staff and no doubt the Terriers are excited to have such a forceful freshman coming in. Brady’s hockey roots are thick. On top of his immediate Tkachuk clan, he’s also related to the Hayes brothers (Kevin and Jimmy) and the whole Fitzgerald clan (Tom and his sons Casey and Ryan). Needless to say, that upbringing had a big influence on the kid.
“It kinda means the world to me,” Brady said. “That’s who I am today. There’s a lot of hockey talk at dinner and at huge family vacations in the summer. Matthew is my role model and when we were younger, we’d always do something – roller hockey, mini-sticks in the basement, basketball – we were super competitive. He taught me how to compete.”
And it wasn’t always pretty. Anyone who has watched Matthew play knows that, along with being a puck-possession beast, the Flames youngster can be aggravating to play against. Brady is well aware of that. Like that one time the brothers were playing mini-sticks in the basement on a slippery synthetic-ice surface and Matthew took Brady out with a blindside hit.
“I didn’t see him coming and I just went right through the wall,” Brady said. “My mom had to fix that; she wasn’t too happy.”
Or the time a family gathering turned into a Golden Gloves tournament.
“At some family events we would get the boxing gloves on and get going,” Matthew said. “And we’d end up going pretty hard. I got him with one and he gave me that look. He’s the type of guy that you can push far, but if you push him over the edge, he’s got that stare and he’s coming to get you.”
And yes, Brady has been pushed over the edge.
“One time he was picking on me so much, I flipped a switch,” Brady said. “My grandma was there and she had to call in (ex-St. Louis Blues center) Phil McRae – he was living with us at the time – and he had to break it up.”
So yeah – don’t mess with Brady. The kid is now 6-foot-2 and nearly 200 pounds and he will no doubt get even stronger once he gets to B.U. and the program’s excellent strength and conditioning program. He had a good start as a member of the NTDP and playing for ‘The Program’ has already provided him with a hockey life map:
“Play like a pro, be like a pro every day, especially off the ice,” Brady said. “Getting my recovery in, eating well. This summer especially I’ve made sure I’m eating well. In other years I was eating junk food a lot – cookies, a good amount. I’ve tried to get rid of the desserts, the chips, the sodas and try to eat healthy meals.”
Brady has also been working with skills coaches over the summer and even got a leg-up on his freshman season at B.U. by playing in the summer Chowder Cup tournament on a team with David Farrance (NSH) and Shane Bowers (OTT), among others.
A big fan of Wayne Simmonds, Marian Hossa and Nick Foligno, Tkachuk likes to take parts from all their games in influencing his own. With Simmonds, it’s the tough, net-front presence and the fact the Flyers veteran isn’t afraid of anybody.
Brady will likely be the same in the NHL, as he has already been toughened up The Tkachuk Way.
“Everything we would do,” Matthew said, “was full contact.”