by Mike Chen on 09/29/08 at 02:00 PM ET
In the ten days before opening night (I’m not counting the Premier games in Europe, though I suppose those are technically opening night), I’ll be flashing back to a more innocent time thanks to my old stack of The Hockey News yearbooks. THN’s top 50 is always a matter of great debate, but it’s fun to see how things have changed. Ten years, after all, is a long time, and the ravages of time have knocked most of these players out of THN’s top 10. A few, however, continue to perform at a freak-of-nature peak level.
Today’s guy doesn’t, though. Ten years ago, the 1998-99 yearbook pegged Keith Tkachuk at #10.
Back then, Tkachuk was the 26-year-old captain of the Phoenix Coyotes and coming off a 40-goal season. His point totals weren’t exactly mind-blowing: with just 26 assists, he had 66 points in 69 games. If he’d been healthy for a full 82, he might have hit the 45-goal mark.
Tkachuk showed off his skills as both a power play specialist (11 PP goals) and a pugilist (147 PIMs). He had a strong playoff performance (6 points in 6 games) but the Coyotes kept up their semi-winning tradition of making it to the playoffs only to have their hopes dashed in the first round yet again.
Today, Tkachuk is a grizzled veteran for a in-transition St. Louis Blues team. He still put up a remarkable 27 goals in 2007-08 and is projected by many to still put in somewhere in the mid-20s. The once fiery captain has cooled his jets a bit as his PIM totals have dropped over the years. Instead of two PIMs for every game he’s played, Tkachuk’s cut that ratio in half and should have around one PIM for each game played.
In comparison, this season’s #10 is Dany Heatley. You’ll notice a stark contrast in assists, but Heatley mirrors a lot of Tkachuk’s ten-years-ago stats, including goals and power play goals. Heatley has a much better +/-, though and his PIMs are about where Tkachuk’s are today.
Tomorrow: #9 Chris Pronger.
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