Injured Tkachuk might not play in opener
GM, coach say club is just being cautious with young player’s ‘nagging little injury’
The Ottawa Senators will start their youth movement without one of their top young players because of an injury.
The Senators are expected to be without rookie winger Brady Tkachuk, the fourth overall selection in the National Hockey League draft in June, when they open the regular season against the Chicago Blackhawks at home on Thursday night.
The 19-year-old Tkachuk, who left Boston University to sign with the Senators in the summer, wasn’t on the ice Tuesday, but he did participate in an off-ice workout as other players were going for a skate.
Since Tkachuk is likely to have a long NHL career, general manager Pierre Dorion said the Senators were better off to exercise caution with him. Tkachuk hasn’t been completely ruled out for the opener, but Dorion listed him as “doubtful.”
“We’re hopeful he’ll be able to rejoin the team (soon),” Dorion said. “It’s nothing serious. It’s a nagging little injury and we want to be cautious with it.”
Of course, this will disappoint Tkachuk, who has played well during training camp, but it’s probably best if he waits a little longer to make his pro debut. He didn’t skate Sunday and was only on the ice briefly Monday.
“We’re going to see what (Wednesday) brings and if he goes on the ice,” Dorion said. “Right now, we’ll say he’s doubtful or 50-50 for Thursday and we’re hopeful he’ll be on the trip and play his first game at that point in time.”
After facing the Blackhawks, the Senators head out on the road for games Saturday night in Toronto and Monday afternoon in Boston.
Not having Tkachuk available forced Senators head coach Guy Boucher to switch all forward lines for practice on Tuesday. Alex Formenton skated in what had been Tkachuk’s spot with Zack Smith and Mark Stone, but that could change.
Tkachuk has played well in combination with Stone and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty.
“If he’s not there, I’ve got a few options,” Boucher said. “He’s had a terrific camp and, as a team, you’re disappointed. For him, I’m sure he was really looking forward to his first NHL game and it was at home and everything.
“But one thing we don’t want to do is be stupid here, rush things and lose the guy for longer. There’s nothing bad here. We want to keep it this way. We’re being a little cautious and I think that’s the way to go. We’ll see what happens in the next days and let the medical staff dictate when he’s able to go.”
The Senators can’t say enough good things about Tkachuk and that’s why they’re so fond of him.
“He’s definitely had great chemistry with Stone and he’ll just get (that) first game later,” Boucher said. “I knew of him a bit, and I’d watched him a bit at a different level, but I’ve found he’s really adapted extremely fast. That usually gives you how a high quality a person somebody is if they can adapt at this level.
“If you look at his development camp until now, every day you saw the kid improve, adapt, but he’s faster than I thought, has better hands than I thought and he’s smarter than I thought. He’s as tough as I thought he would be, so that’s a lot of great qualities to bring to the table.
“You can have all these qualities and not be able to adapt in a short amount of time, but in his case he was able to adapt to everything really quick. That’s probably his best quality, being able to adapt. That’s why he was getting the ice time with the better players, and he was producing.”
When he does make his debut, Tkachuk will become the third member of his family to play in the NHL. His father, Keith, was a prolific goal scorer during a long career, while brother Matthew is with the Calgary Flames.
Being from a hockey family has helped Tkachuk’s maturity.
“It can’t hurt him,” Boucher said. “I’ve seen families where it’s not good, but obviously for him it’s been outstanding. Everybody knows how great a hockey player Keith was, but now you see (Matthew) doing well and see (Brady) doing great. Definitely those players have benefited from lots of hockey knowledge and experience.
“It’s not just a hockey thing. This is a good individual, a good person and really well raised outside the hockey realm. He’s a terrific kid that wears his heart on his sleeve and has really good people qualities.”