OTTAWA — While the Ottawa Senators have produced their fair share of negative headlines in recent months, there is a sense of excitement when it comes to Brady Tkachuk.
The Senators' top pick (fourth overall) in the 2018 NHL draft will make his professional debut this weekend as he takes part in a rookie tournament featuring the Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs in Laval, Que.
The 18-year-old winger made the decision to turn pro this summer and is looking to crack the Senators' roster. Tkachuk spent last season at Boston University, where he had eight goals and 23 assists in 40 games.
The native of St. Louis is eligible to play in the NHL, the AHL (Belleville Senators) or OHL (London Knights) this season.
"There was a lot of motivation this summer and there's an opportunity there and now I have to work for it and just play my game," Tkachuk said following practice with fellow rookies on Thursday. "I think for me it's just working hard and playing my best every shift and try to get better every shift. That's my main focus right now. I think it's also going to help if we get two wins this weekend, so that's really important for us."
Tkachuk comes from a deep family with his dad, Keith, having played 1,201 NHL games, and older brother Matthew now suiting up for the Calgary Flames. Brady has been given plenty of advice of what to expect in the coming weeks and how to deal with some of the pressure.
"Taking care of yourself off the ice is super important and resting when you need a rest and just elevate your game every day," Tkachuk said when asked about the tips he got from Matthew. "It was nice, he gave me a lot of advice over the summer."
The two brothers spent part of the summer working with ex-NHLer Gary Roberts, now a high-performance trainer, and the Senators are pleased with the results.
"(Tkachuk) knows what it takes, he knows what he had to do this summer and he put in the work so now it's just to show everyone else that he can do it," Senators player development coach Shean Donovan said.
"What you've got to love about Brady is he's full of confidence, in a good way. He's first in line, he does drills hard, he finishes drills and he's competitive. He's a huge character guy, he obviously has skill too, but he's got tons of character and you can just see it. He exudes it off the ice and on the ice through practice, he's showing his stuff even in the short amount of time we've gotten to see him."
Two of Tkachuk's pals are Logan Brown and Colin White, also Senators prospects. But the trio understands it will be a battle and friendships may need to be set aside at times.
White, the most experienced of the three, has 23 NHL games under his belt and finished last season with the Senators.
Brown was selected 11th overall in 2016 by the Senators.
The 20-year-old played four games with the Senators last season, picking up one assist, before being sent back to the OHL's Kitchener Rangers with the message to get stronger, faster and bigger. The Senators emphasized the need to work on his skating and Brown spent the summer working in Ottawa with a skating coach.
"I feel really good," said Brown. "I did everything that was at my disposal to get better and skating was a big part for me and I feel a lot better."
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press