Tkachuk expects ‘tons of butterflies’ in season debut with Senators – NHL.com

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Brady Tkachuk said he’ll have “tons of butterflies” when he makes his season debut with the Ottawa Senators against the San Jose Sharks at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; TSN5, RDS2, NBCSCA, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).”It’s my first game in a while and first game in front of fans, so (I’m) definitely going…

Tkachuk expects ‘tons of butterflies’ in season debut with Senators – NHL.com
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Brady Tkachuk said he’ll have “tons of butterflies” when he makes his season debut with the Ottawa Senators against the San Jose Sharks at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; TSN5, RDS2, NBCSCA, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).

“It’s my first game in a while and first game in front of fans, so (I’m) definitely going to be a little nervous,” the forward said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Of course, it’s definitely going to be a good nervous.

“This is more than about just one game though. The future is so bright for this team, this city and we want to show the fans that.”

Tkachuk who led the Senators with 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) in 56 games last season, said he’s thrilled to be back in Ottawa after signing a seven-year, $57.5 million contract Oct. 14 that runs through 2027-28. The 22-year-old skated with the U.S. Development Team in Michigan during Senators training camp, which he said allowed him to concentrate on hockey while the deal was being negotiated.

“It was nice to just be able to skate with those guys, work out and kind of go through my day,” Tkachuk said. “I understand there was probably some white noise around it, especially in Canada, but I tried to do my best to kind of block it out. It’s just a part of the business side of things, the process.

“I’m just happy it’s over with and I get to play hockey again for my teammates, the fans, the organization, the city.”

Now that he’s locked up long-term with the Senators, Tkachuk discussed what’s next for himself, the team and his feelings for Ottawa in a Q&A with NHL.com:

The opening question often asked of a young player who gets his first big contract is, what was the first thing you bought? A car? A house? A trip?

“Actually, I bought a recliner for myself. Yep, so that was the first big purchase that I got, so we’re just waiting a couple months for that to get in. That was my big buy.”

You’re not the first young player in recent years who has signed a long-term contract with the Senators; defenseman Thomas Chabot (24), forward Drake Batherson (23) and yourself are now locked up through at least 2027. What does it mean that the organization has shown faith in you guys to be the foundation of this team moving forward?

“I just think it shows the team’s commitment to winning and commitment to kind of keep this crew together. I think there’s a lot of great players within our organization and it’s just a matter of time that it becomes the winning organization that expects to win every single night. I think right now from the top down that’s what everybody believes, and I think it’s kind of shown with all this. We have a great group of guys and a lot of great people and it’s just so much fun to be around, go to work every day and go to battle every night. I can’t speak highly enough about this group.”

Video: Brady Tkachuk signs a 7-year contract extension

Having offered such high praise about your teammates, will the Senators be a Stanley Cup Playoff team this season?

“I mean, that’s a good question, man. No, we don’t put any expectations on ourselves, besides being the hardest working team in the NHL every single day and every single night. Look, I think everybody every year wants to win the Stanley Cup. I feel like that’s everybody’s belief in here. But our focus is strictly on coming into work every single day and being the hardest working team and being on a team that nobody likes playing against. Right now, that’s been our main focus day in and day out.”

You mentioned expectations. Playing in a Canadian market, there are always plenty coming from outside the dressing room. Some players relish being in a fishbowl like that, others don’t want any part of it. What’s your take on that?

“I love Ottawa. I love the community, I love the people, the fans, the passion. That’s why it was easy to sit at the table and sign long-term. At the end of the day, there’s always kids looking up to players. For me, I looked up to a ton of NHL players, so I think I’m more kind of embracing it because I can put myself in those kids’ shoes. They’re all looking up to us players nowadays, so I think it’s always great and important to be a part of the community, give back to the community and be a leader for kids to look up to.”

To your point, there was a great example of how much you guys mean to the kids last season. Tim Stutzle scored his first NHL hat trick May 8 in a 4-2 victory against the host Winnipeg Jets, but there were no fans in the building to throw hats on the ice because of COVID-19 protocols. A couple of days later back in Ottawa, kids tossed dozens of hats into the backyard of where you, Stutzle and teammate Josh Norris were living. How cool was that?

 “I think it was such a great idea by our neighbors. I thought going into it (that) it was just kind of going to be their family, so I was shocked to look outside and see there’s a bunch of people there. I think it’s just one of many examples of how much they support us and love us, and how much we care about them. We put our heart and soul into it to make sure the fans are proud of the effort and about the winning organization that we’re trying to turn ourselves into. We have big goals.”

Two of the three games you missed thus far were against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the “Battle of Ontario,” a rivalry you embrace so much. What makes it so special?

“I know they don’t like us, we don’t like them, so I think that’s just nice to know. (We) played against them a bunch last year and they’re always intense games. I think for everyone in the locker room we play the same way no matter who it is against, but some games do get more emotional than others when fans get involved. Those rivalry games are fun.”

Finally, on a personal note, you finished second in shots (220) and hits (248) in the NHL in 2021-21. What does that say about your game and is it a goal to finish atop both categories this season?

“I mean, I wouldn’t say I necessarily take pride in that. Actually, that’s just kind of a part of my game; getting a bunch of shots on the net and being physical. I don’t look at the stats and be like ‘Oh wow, those are a lot of numbers.’ I think that’s just kind of a part of my physicality and my game. Each day, I try to come in with my game face and work boots on. That’s all I care about.”

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