The Ottawa Senators list Brady Tkachuk’s vitals at 6-foot-3 and 196 pounds. That’s the thing about the NHL. The height and weight at which you enter the league is the same one that follows you throughout your career.
But a lot has changed for Brady Tkachuk in just over a year. Most importantly, Tkachuk has gained 16 pounds since then and now tips the scales at a very annoying 212 pounds. But after a summer in which he and older brother, Matthew, rented a home in suburban Toronto and worked with fitness guru Gary Roberts, skills coach Jari Byrski and skating coach Dawn Braid, that 212 pounds is distributed much differently now.
“I was playing at around the same weight at the end of last season, but it was a bit of a different body,” Tkachuk said. “I enjoyed some of the extra food (the team) provided last year and this year I’m a lot leaner.”
Spending the summer under Roberts’ watchful eyes has a tendency to do that to a guy. As Tkachuk kicks off his second season tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he’ll be looking to build on a rookie season in which he finished second only to Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks in points by a freshman and fifth in voting for the Calder Trophy. He’s leaner in that pursuit, and believe it or not, he might even be a bit meaner. Working so closely with his older brother, who is a talented and nasty piece of work with the Calgary Flames, is bound to rub off on him a little. Tkachuk was already well taken care of in that department – he actually had more penalty minutes in fewer games than Matthew last season – but Matthew’s compete level is off the charts.
“I definitely have to push myself against my brother,” Brady said. “With how good a player he is, it’s definitely motivation for me.”
Byrski had a front-row seat for the Tkachuk brothers’ show. He said where Matthew was always driven to do things faster and better, Brady took a more methodical approach. His thirst to learn was insatiable. It was definitely all business for them in their approach to getting better. “What is interesting is they are so young,” Byrski said. “Through all these years I’ve worked with the pro guys, you get surprised because the things you hear from them you usually hear from an older player. Most times with young guys, it’s based on enthusiasm, but here you get the feeling you’re dealing with a pro guy and he’s only 19. And you had the feeling that he clearly enjoys it. This, to him, is not work.”
Much of that maturity and poise comes from the fact that both brothers have been around NHL players all their lives. That gives them a huge advantage over other prospects because nothing about NHL life is foreign to them. But they’ve also been willing to put in the work, despite the fact that their bloodlines and exposure to the NHL gave them a leg up on other players.
Last season, Tkachuk earned $425,000 in performance bonuses on top of his $925,000 salary. He enters this season installed on the Senators’ top line alongside center Colin White and right winger Connor Brown and will set up on the team’s first power-play unit. That should give him the opportunity to put up some very good numbers on a team where there is a dearth of offensive talent. Aside from that, Tkachuk will be looking to move the needle upward in his development as a player by becoming a bigger pain in the ass, a more productive scorer, a more physical force and a better two-way performer. There’s nothing in his nature or his history that suggests that won’t happen in Season No. 2.
“I never want to be complacent in my own game,” he said. “I want to keep elevating my game and getting better every day and doing everything I possibly can to get better. I definitely feel like I have a lot in the tank and I’m ready to do that.”
Brady Tkachuk having a lot in the tank is good news for the Senators. The fact that he’s now built like a tank might not be so pleasant for his opponents.
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