Since being drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 1st round (6th overall) of the 2016 National Hockey League Entry Draft forward Matthew Tkachuk has become one of the most recognizable and most popular players on the entire Flames roster, and one of the most notorious agitators in the entire league for that matter, but as it turns out that almost never came to pass.
Tkachuk was a recent guest on TSN 1050's "OverDrive" and it was during that radio interview that Tkachuk revealed he almost never became a member of the Calgary Flames. Instead Tkachuk revealed that he was expecting to play on the other side of the Battle of Alberta, indicating that it was his belief that he would be selected 4th at that draft by the Edmonton Oilers. Of course with the Oilers being the Flames biggest rival that now sounds almost unthinkable, but Tkachuk spins a very interesting story about how it all went down.
"A little bit of a funny story, I really never knew about the Battle of Alberta until I was drafted. Going through the whole draft process I was thinking of myself as a pretty good player and I thought.... you can ask anybody in the Flames organization I thought I was going to Edmonton," said Tkachuk during the interview.
So why is it that Tkachuk believed he would become an Oiler? Well according to the young forward he had every indication that he would be going 4th overall in the draft and that was the position in which the Oilers were picking, however a surprise pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets proved to be a huge, history changing, moment for the Calgary Flames.
"During the draft, on the draft floor, there was kind of a weird moment when some people at the Edmonton table were kind of staring me down and giving me some smiles.. so we thought 'alright i'm going to Edmonton," said Tkachuk. "Then Pierre Luc Dubois when 3rd overall and then phones started ringing like crazy at the Edmonton table and they threw a jersey underneath the table, it looked like they stripped off the name, and they give it to [Jesse] Puljujarvi with the next pick," said Tkachuk.
Although Tkachuk never stated which name he believed to be on the back of that jersey before the Oilers stripped off, but it is clear that he believes it was his name that was meant to be called by the Oilers. The Oilers instead got Jesse Puljujarvi and no doubt the Flames are counting their blessings for that, while fans of the Oilers might be a little bit more upset to learn how close they came to having Tkachuk, a player that has proven infinitely more valuable than Puljujarvi.
In hindsight the Oilers perhaps should have seen the red flags when a Finnish general manager in Jarmo Kekalainen opted to avoid picking Puljujarvi at the draft, but hindsight is always 20/20. I would be inclined to give the Oilers more of the benefit of the doubt here except for the fact that this pick was a part of the Peter Chiarelli era and it will no doubt go down as one of the many failures of that era.