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2020 Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Kirby Dach at No. 1

Kirby Dach came up big in the postseason. He’ll look to prove he can also be a top-six center in the 2021 season.

Boston Bruins v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Second City Hockey’s 2020-21 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2020. The rankings are determined by a composite score from three SCH writers and community member, L_B_R. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. All four ballots will be released after the series is completed.

Kirby Dach had an up-and-down regular season, with moments of inconsistency that are typical for NHL rookies but were also one of the knocks against Dach during his time in the WHL. That includes a 28-game stretch near the middle of last season when Dach had just one point. He did bounce back in the final 21 games, though, with two goals and 10 assists.

Then the postseason happened.

Dach was an overwhelming force for the Blackhawks in the playoffs in both ends, upping his game and becoming a presence the Blackhawks utilized in every aspect of the game. Dach played the fifth-most shorthanded time among Blackhawks forwards in the postseason and the fourth-most time on the power play.

That postseason success can be attributed to the growth spurt Dach had after hockey shut down in March. That growth spurt wasn’t height — he was already 6-4 — but rather muscle, as he gained bulk and size between the end of the regular season and training camp while working out with Ian Mack — Patrick Kane’s trainer. That allowed him to be a better net-front presence on the power play and to enforce his will in his own end.

Postseason Dach was a beast, one the Blackhawks may be able to rely on more in the future with Jonathan Toews on the wrong side of 30 and Patrick Kane continuing to age as well.

Dach will need better linemates in the 2021 season if he’s going to maximize his skills, however. He spent the regular season moving all over the lineup, including stretches of games with David Kampf and Ryan Carpenter. In the postseason, Dach played games with Alex DeBrincat and Kane, as a result of the improved performance that earned him time with top-six linemates. Dach should be with Kane immediately to start 2021.

The scouting report on Dach entering the 2019 draft was that he could have the best skill set after the top two picks but just lacked consistency (he had a similar valley in production during his draft year, going 11 games with just one point from Nov. 28 to Dec. 28). Nine games of postseason play proved that Dach has an excellent skill set. Now he just needs to prove he can brings that ability to every game, every night.

What’s next

Dach is currently in training camp with Team Canada ahead of the World Juniors Championship. With Alexis Lafreniere and Jack Hughes both out, Dach may be the most interesting player to watch at the tournament. He also looks like the early favorite to play first-line center on a team that includes Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft.

After the World Juniors end he’ll join the Blackhawks as a top-six center and would benefit from having a top-six worthy forward like Patrick Kane on his right wing.

All advanced statistics from Natural Stat Trick