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06-26-2016, 08:05 PM

Keith Tkachuk had big role in Wild top pick Luke Kunin's development

Keith Tkachuk spoke after being inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in December 2011.
June 26, 2016 - 12:12 AM

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Like Hall of Famer Al MacInnis and former NHL defenseman Jeff Brown, Keith Tkachuk had his hand in the development of the five St. Louis-area players selected in the first round of this weekend’s NHL draft.

One of those players was Wild first-round pick Luke Kunin, the 15th pick in the draft.

Tkachuk, a former 500-goal, 1,000-point NHL star from Massachusetts, has known Kunin since he was 5 years old. In fact, last year was the first year since he was a kid that Kunin wasn’t teammates with Keith’s son, Matt Tkachuk, drafted sixth overall by the Calgary Flames.

“Luke Kunin is a guy that you can play in any situation,” said Keith Tkachuk, who coached Kunin on the St. Louis AAA Blues. “He’s one of those guys that a coach would fall in love with him. He’s just got so many qualities coaches love.

“When you see this kid every day, his work ethic on and off the ice, he’s just a superb kid. He’ll do whatever it takes to get to the NHL, and this kid will get there.”

How will Wild reshape roster after a dull finish to draft?
Tkachuk said Kunin’s leadership is off the charts.

“He’ll hit, kill penalties, power play, tough kid, he’s an elite skater and he’s got an unbelievable shot,” Tkachuk said. “I treated him just like I treated my own kid, and at times they both hated it. I hope they realize now what I was doing.”