Second City Hockey’s 2019-20 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2019. The rankings are determined by a composite score from six SCH writers and more than 70 readers. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. The six SCH writers will make their ballots public after the series is completed.
“He’ll have every opportunity to make the team.”
Those were the words of former general manager Dale Tallon when asked if Patrick Kane could play in the NHL for the 2007-08 season. Those are also the words Tallon’s predecessor, Stan Bowman, used when asked if Kirby Dach could play in the NHL next season.
Bowman made that path a little easier for Dach by trading center Artem Anisimov to Ottawa for forward Zack Smith, who is better suited at wing, in July. Dach is one of several players contending for a roster spot, and if he does make the team past a nine-game audition, he’ll be the first Blackhawks player since Kane to make the jump from juniors to the NHL the season after the draft.
What sets Dach apart? His hockey sense, vision, play-making abilities, defensive play and good skating ability for his size.
After a 46-point campaign (seven goals, 39 assists) during his first full WHL season with the Saskatoon Blades, he scored 73 points (25 goals, 48 assists). He was one of the key cogs to the Blades ending their five-year playoff drought, and was second on the team in playoff points and goals. Simply put, he rose to the occasion and played his best in the playoffs.
Kirby Dach makes it 1-0. He’s good. pic.twitter.com/QvQFokkfgk— Pat McKay (@PatMckayCTV) April 8, 2019
Dach’s skating doesn’t match his frame. Players his size (6-foot-4) don’t move or have the skill he does. The aspects of his skating that stick out the most are powerful crossovers to gain speed through the zones and ability to quickly pivot and change direction against defenders. He does, however, need to get quicker within the first three steps of his stride. It was the main thing he worked on with Blackhawks skating and skills development coach Kevin Delaney after the team’s development camp.
Dach showed his hockey IQ and defensive play during the scrimmage at development camp. He’s able to use his size to overpower smaller defenders and protect the puck before shooting it or finding a seam for a pass.
Kirby Dach with a goal! #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/FMdUUWnFCb— Second City Hockey (@2ndCityHockey) July 19, 2019
Dach is also great at backchecking and stick lifts to stop an attack. Here, Dach tracks down Michal Teply, who just stopped skating once he crossed the blue line.
Kirby Dach gets back and denies Michal Teply of the breakaway pic.twitter.com/W5op0k81Hp— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) July 19, 2019
Aside from his first three steps in his stride, Dach will also have to work on winning faceoff draws. He wasn’t great this past season and routinely lost draws during the scrimmage and at the World Junior Summer Showcase last month. Development coach Yanic Perreault should spend plenty of time with Dach working on faceoffs.
Dach will be the main attraction for the Blackhawks next weekend at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan. It’s another opportunity for him to raise his stock in the eyes of coaches and management that he can play in the NHL next season, even if it’s just for a nine-game audition.
It might be better for Dach long term if he returns to the WHL, where he’ll be counted on to log heavy minutes again and play in all situations. The Blackhawks would expect him to be one of the best WHL players next season, and for him to have a strong showing at World Juniors on the top line with projected first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere and Red Wings prospect Joe Velano, if Velano is made available.
Is Kirby Dach ranked too low, just right or too high?
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