Joey Kenward: A difference of two years
Kellan Tochkin is proving that size doesn't matter despite what the critics say.
Two years ago, he was a walk-on invitee to Canucks rookie camp.
Two years later, Kellan Tochkin is hoping for a huge performance in the playoffs to help him take that next step in his hockey career.
Last weekend, the Western Hockey League playoffs open up on eight different fronts. The lone Canucks prospect taking part in the WHL post season is Tochkin, a native of Abbotsford, BC who skates with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Close to a point-per-game player during his days in the WHL, Tochkin is expected to be a key offensive contributor to any success the Tigers will have over the next few weeks.
"Kellan has to be a big performer for Medicine Hat in the playoffs and he knows that's expected of him," says Canucks Director of Player Development Dave Gagner. "He creates scoring chances, he's very calm with the puck, and he reads the play very well."
Tochkin is by no means the biggest player in the Canucks stables. Standing at 5'9" and weighing roughly 170lbs, Tochkin on many nights looks small compared many he plays with. He hasn't let his dimensions effect his performance over the years, as the right winger has averaged just under 70 points in each of his last three seasons.
"Despite his size, he's consistently put up numbers," adds Gagner. "Moving to Medicine Hat has created a new challenge for him because he's sharing more of a scoring responsibility and for the way he plays the game, that's a good thing."
This season has been one of change for Tochkin.
At the WHL trade deadline in January, Tochkin was moved to Medicine Hat from the Everett Silvertips, a club he had been with since being selected as their first round pick in the 2006 WHL Bantam Draft. It was also the first time in his three-year WHL career where he had to deal with injury, as he missed four games with a concussion. With both of those matters behind him, Tochkin is in a great position to make a solid impact in the playoffs.
"Kellan has come into our group and filled a top-six forward position," says Tigers General Manager Brad McEwen. "He's played an integral role on our power play and has been really consistent offensively since we acquired him."
The Tigers finished the season with the seven players on their club collecting 40-or-more points. Tochkin was in the middle of that list, wrapping up the campaign with 29 goals and 35 assists. It's no surprise those kind of numbers on an offensive minded team will make Kellan a valuable commodity in the post season.
"He'll be leaned on heavily by our group to produce," adds McEwen, whose club faces the Brandon Wheat Kings in the opening round of the WHL playoffs. "The need for him to raise his play even more than what he's already done will be a necessity."
Having not been selected in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Tochkin accepted a try out at Canucks rookie camp that year at UBC. Surprising to many, but not a shock to others, Tochkin signed his first pro contract with the club after turning the heads of scouts and team management. Having just turned 20 in February, the organization knows a strong playoff performance will enhance his chances of turning pro one day.
"Having success this spring will be good for him mentally," adds Gagner. "In order to have a good pro career in the future, he'll need to continue to be able to contribute offensively as well as in other ways in many different scenarios he'll be faced with."