SUNRISE, Fla. -- For Matthew Tkachuk, winning most valuable player at the 2023 NHL All-Star Game was an honor Saturday. But having the chance to represent the host Florida Panthers and finally play on a team with his brother made the event even more memorable.
Tkachuk, 25, was named MVP with four goals and three assists in the Atlantic Division's two All-Star tournament victories. He had the opportunity to play with Panthers teammate Aleksander Barkov and brother Brady Tkachuk, a 23-year-old forward with the Ottawa Senators. It was the first time the Tkachuks were teammates as professional players.
"We always dreamt about playing with each other. We always figured it would be on Team USA," said Matthew Tkachuk, who was traded to the Panthers from the Calgary Flames last summer. "I was in the West forever. He was in the Atlantic. We never thought this was a possibility. So this weekend, being the first time playing together, made it extra special."
Brady Tkachuk said playing with Matthew meant just giving him the puck because "you know he was going to be shooting today in front of the home fans."
The Tkachuks spent time being fans themselves at All-Star Weekend. They shared a dressing room with stars like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin and "made sure we got a picture with both of them" at the game, according to Matthew Tkachuk. He said that "the week and the weekend" finally caught up with him and his brother in the second half of the tournament final.
"I'm not going to lie: This weekend is unreal but it's also a lot of moving parts. It's definitely not a break. You're going everywhere, especially being the host team," Matthew Tkachuk said.
But having the chance to represent the Panthers was as meaningful as anything during All-Star Weekend.
"To be honest, I really didn't care about anything other than representing my team. It's a big honor to be one of the representatives, along with Barky, to be the host city," Matthew Tkachuk said.
"Without anybody saying it, [things] kind of revolve around us a little bit. The home crowd is on our side. Starting the game and having the fans basically just cheering for us. There's no pressure with it, but we definitely felt we had to do our part to show what a great place and what great fans we have."
Matthew Tkachuk leads the Panthers with 66 points in 49 games. He and Barkov are right back at it on Monday, as Florida hosts the rival Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers are currently three points out of the final wild-card slot (54 points), although they've played three more games than the Pittsburgh Penguins (57 points).
Tkachuk said it was fun having the chance to play with Barkov at the All-Star Game -- especially as an occasional trio with Brady Tkachuk.
"For him to be able to deal with Brady and I, he should have won MVP," he said.