Keith Matthew Tkachuk (born March 28, 1972) is a retired American professional ice hockey player who played for four teams and three franchises in his 19-year career. He is one of only four American-born players to score 500 goals, and is the sixth American player to score 1,000 points.
Tkachuk began his hockey career at Malden Catholic High School in Malden, Massachusetts. Tkachuk played collegiate hockey at Boston University, was a member of the U.S. National Junior team in 1991 and 1992, and a member of the U.S. Olympic team in 1992. He was drafted in the first round (19th overall) in the 1990 entry draft by the Winnipeg Jets who acquired the pick from the Buffalo Sabres in the deal that sent Dale Hawerchuk to Buffalo.Tkachuk played as Center, Left Winger and Right Winger in his career.
Tkachuk has earned the nickname “Walt” (given to him by Eddie Olczyk), possibly in reference to Walter Tkaczuk, a star center who played for the New York Rangers from 1967 to 1981. The two players’ last names are pronounced similarly but spelled differently, and the two men are not related to each other. With his great play in front of the net, using his size and strength to battle opposing defensemen, St. Louis Blues broadcasters and fans dubbed Tkachuk “Big Walt”.
Winnipeg Jets (1992–1996)
Only days after the end of the Olympics, Tkachuk made his NHL debut on February 28, 1992, against the Vancouver Canucks and tallied an assist. He would finish the season with the Jets, getting eight points in 17 games. In the playoffs that year, he scored three goals in seven games. The following season, 1992–93, was Tkachuk’s official rookie year. He appeared in 83 games and ended the season with 28 goals and 51 points, including a 12–game scoring streak from March 9 to April 3, 1993.
Tkachuk became the team captain the next season on November 3, 1993, two weeks after recording his first hat trick, against the Philadelphia Flyers. Some of his accomplishments from that season include leading the Jets in goals (41), points (81), and power play goals (22). The 1994–95 season, which was shortened by a lockout, saw Tkachuk earn all-star second-team honors, as well as being second on the team in points.
In the 1995–96 season, Tkachuk dominated the Jets’ statistics finishing first in goals (50), assists (48), points (98), power play goals (20), game-winning goals (6), shots (249), and plus/minus (+11).
Tkachuk was stripped of the Jets captaincy, at the start of the 1995–96 NHL season (the Winnipeg Jets last season), after a contract dispute. Kris King was named the new captain. Tkachuk was restored as captain at the start of the 1996–97 NHL season, when the Jets moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to become the Phoenix Coyotes.
Phoenix Coyotes (1996–2001)
The Jets moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1996, where Tkachuk became a member of the new Phoenix Coyotes. It was with Phoenix during the 1996–97 season that he has his career-best 52 goals, and made his first appearance in the NHL All-Star Game. He also led the team in goals, points, power-play goals, game-winning goals, and shots for the 1997–98 season, earning him his second straight All-Star appearance. For the 1998–99 season, Tkachuk led the team in goals, power-play goals, game-winning goals, shots, and plus/minus, and again went to the All-Star game. In 1997, Tkachuk was on the cover of the video game NHL Breakaway ’98.
After struggling with injuries for the next two seasons, the Coyotes traded Tkachuk to the Blues in 2001 for Ladislav Nagy, Michal Handzus, Jeff Taffe and a 1st round selection (Ben Eager), where he was re-united with Dallas Drake, who had signed a free agent deal with the Blues in the summer of 2000. He would leave the team ranking second in all-time goals (323) and first in penalty minutes (1,508) among other records.
St. Louis Blues and brief Atlanta Thrashers stint (2001–2010)
Tkachuk made an immediate impact on the Blues, scoring six goals and eight points in the final 12 games of the 2000–01 season. The Blues made it to the Western Conference final in the playoffs that season, losing to the Colorado Avalanche, the eventual 2001 Stanley Cup champions. He has experienced several injuries while with the Blues, and was briefly suspended when he reported to training camp overweight and failed his physical at the beginning of the 2005–06 season.
On June 26 of the same year, St. Louis reacquired Tkachuk along with a conditional 4th round draft pick for a conditional first round pick in 2008. If Tkachuk had re-signed with the Thrashers, the Blues would have had Atlanta’s 1st round pick in 2008. Since the Blues acquired exclusive negotiating rights with Tkachuk and re-signed him to a two-year deal, Atlanta received a conditional 4th round pick in 2008. Tkachuk signed a new, two-year contract with the Blues for $8 million on June 30. Upon re-signing, Tkachuk said of the Blues that “I see a lot of good things happening… They’re going to be very active in making this a better hockey team.” To help prove the Blues would be better, after signing Tkachuk they signed left winger Paul Kariya. Coach Andy Murray announced that he would try a line where Tkachuk would be centering Kariya on left wing and Brad Boyes on right.
On the last day of the 2007–08 regular season (April 6), Tkachuk scored his 500th NHL Goal, a milestone only three other American-born players have achieved, and the 41st overall in NHL history.
On November 30, 2008, Tkachuk scored goal number 511, giving him 1,000 NHL points for his career. He becomes only the sixth American, and 72nd overall to achieve that milestone. It came in his 1,077th NHL game. He signed a one year contract with the Blues on June 19, 2009. On April 7, 2010, Tkachuk announced that he would be retiring from hockey at the conclusion of the 2009–10 season. He played his final NHL game two nights later on April 9, 2010.
- Hockey East All-Rookie Team — 1991
- NHL Second All-Star Team — 1995, 1998
- Played in 5 NHL All-Star Games — 1997, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009
- NHL Player of the Week — December 6, 1993; April 1, 1994; April 7, 1997
- 1000 games played — December 1, 2007, against the Chicago Blackhawks
- 700 career points — April 5, 2002, against the Chicago Blackhawks
- 400 career goals — October 12, 2003, against the Colorado Avalanche
- 500 career goals — April 6, 2008, against the Columbus Blue Jackets
- 1000 career points — November 30, 2008, against the Atlanta Thrashers
Tkachuk led the NHL in goals during the 1996–97 season with 52, the first American-born player to do so. That season he was also only the fourth player in NHL history to record 50 goals and 200 penalty minutes in a single season.
- Phoenix Coyotes franchise record for career game-winning goals (40)
- Phoenix Coyotes franchise record for career penalty minutes (1,508)