Not unlike his father Keith, who logged 1,201 NHL games from 1992-2010, Matthew Tkachuk is a big, skilled forward who plays with an edge and thrives upon getting under the skin of opponents. He refuses to back down from anybody.
The game of Big Walt’s first-born was best displayed last season when he laid a dirty hit on Kings defenseman Drew Doughty then responding by going right at the Norris Trophy-winning blueliner the next time out while taking on Brayden McNabb early in the game.
Doughty and the Kings don’t care for the 19-year-old, who was selected by Calgary with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Chances are better than not the Kings are not alone in that sentiment, and the list will only grow as the years go on.
It all exploded on Wednesday night, the first meeting between the two clubs (which Calgary won, 4-3, in overtime), when Tkachuk did a little digging after Kings goalie Jonathan Quick covered the puck late in the third period. A post-whistle scrum ensued. Doughty and Tkachuk went onto exchange pleasantries from their respective penalty boxes in the aftermath.
This is what the game needs more of. Player feuds, heated rivalries, heated emotion from a game that is built more on emotion than any sport on the planet. And here you have this feud surrounding two of the better players on division rivals. It’s the perfect storm.
Don’t get me wrong, I love where the NHL has gone. There’s more skill, more speed, more talent from top-to-bottom in the league as there has ever been. It’s as fun to follow as ever. And I’m not looking for games with 150 penalty minutes, and five line-brawls, or guys going around slew-footing and running guys from behind. The Tkachuk elbow on Doughty last season that started all this has no place in the game.
But the back-and-forth drama, teams hating each other? There’s not as much of it right now. The league is better and more entertaining when it has that.
PS – Tkachuk’s younger brother, Brady, is a freshman at Boston University and is projected to be selected high in the first round of next year’s draft. If Matt plays like he has a bee in his bonnet, Brady has a full hornets net. The Tkachuk brothers should be fan favorites for a long time.