After 19 illustrious NHL seasons, Keith Tkachuk is getting the recognition he deserves.
Along with greats Gary Suter, Chris Chelios, Mike Emrick and Ed Snider, the man nicknamed "Walt" has been inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Tkachuk ranks third in goals (538) and fifth in points (1,065) all-time among American-born hockey players. His 2,219 penalty minutes have him fourth on the same list of gritty skaters.
His charge-the-net style of play surfaced when Tkachuk broke into the league at just 19. In the 1991-1992 season, the center scored just three goals and eight points with the Winnipeg Jets.
In 1996, the Jets relocated and became the Phoenix Coyotes. During his first season in Phoenix, Walt lit the lamp 52 times, which would remain his career record for a single-season goal mark.
In 640 games with Winnipeg/Phoenix, the captain scored 323 times and left with 300 assists.
After being embarrassed by the San Jose Sharks in the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the St Louis Blues had a desire to add physical prowess to their squad. For three players (Ladislav Nagy, Michael Handzus and Jeff Taffe) along with a first-round pick, Keith Tkachuk was shipped to the Gateway City.
Added to a line featuring Scott Mellanby and the late Pavol Demitra, Tkachuk fit right in with the Blues, scoring six goals in the final twelve games of the regular season. He then helped St. Louis reach the 2001 Western Conference Finals, where the club fell to the Colorado Avalanche in just five games.
The next five seasons, Tkachuk remained an integral part of the Blues hockey team and helped take them to the playoffs in 2002, 2003 and 2004. However, he was never able to play more than 10 games in those postseason appearances.
In February of 2007, the Blues traded Tkachuk to the Atlanta Thrashers, where he played just 17 games for the club. In return, St. Louis acquired Glen Metropolit and three future draft picks.
That summer, Tkachuk was shipped back to the Blues for what would be his final three seasons.
In nine seasons with St. Louis, Walt played in 542 games, scored 208 goals and 427 overall points dawning the note on the sweater.
What Keith Tkachuk means to the St. Louis Blues organization is indescribable.
To a franchise that has never hoisted the Stanley Cup in its 44 years of existence, seeing Tkachuk inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame gives the Blues something great to look back on.
A fan-favorite during his time in St. Louis, Tkachuk showed the city a style of play which was pretty unfamiliar. Tkachuk's style of crowding the net is very recognizable now with young, gritty guys like captain David Backes and Patrik Berglund doing so.
As the club continues its emergence as one of the toughest in the league, Tkachuk should be considered an inspiration. Many of the team's young guys were able to witness what Walt brought to the ice on a nightly basis, and are now implementing the same grittiness.
It is a beautiful sight and one Blues fans should look forward for years to come.
Congrats, Keith Tkachuk.
Steven Conklin is a contributing writer for the Bleacher Report and a student at the University of Central Missouri. He joined B/R in October 2011 and will be a B/R intern starting in January. Any comments, questions or suggestions are more than welcome.
Other Articles by Steven: