When it comes to second round picks, NHL General Mangers are often searching for players with good value and the highest ceiling possible. Forwards typically develop faster and show what type of player they are at a younger age. The Blackhawks scouting department clearly saw a lot of upside in Alex DeBrincat in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and they won that bet. So that begs the question, what is it that the Hawks see in Colton Dach? Do they see him as Kirby Dach’s brother? Is this part of some sort of hockey family tradition scheme, much like the acquisition of both Seth and Caleb Jones? Or does Chicago believe the younger Dach is capable of becoming an NHL level talent?
Position: Center/Left Wing
Age: 18 (Jan 4, 2003)
Hometown: Fort Saskatchewan, AB, CAN
Weight: 192 pounds
Team: Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Make no mistake, Dach is his own player. However, there are plenty of similarities to his brother, Kirby. In their draft years, both stood 6-foot-4 and near 190 pounds. Both are big, two-way centers who played for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL and both have January birthdays.
What differentiates Colton Dach from his brother?
To start, Colton Dach was taken late in the second round (62nd overall), which is decisively later than 3rd overall. It’s been made clear that unlike his brother, scouts do not see Colton Dach as a surefire number one center in the NHL. However, with the slew of talent that the 2021 NHL Draft featured at all positions, many teams drafting outside the top 10 seemed to address organizational needs first and foremost, rather than going the “best player available” route.
By all accounts, Dach does all the small things that his brother does: he gets in the corners and does the dirty work, he plays a solid defensive game and is positionally sound in all three zones. However, it seems that he just isn't doing doing those things at the level that Kirby was prior to his draft year ... at least not yet.
So, what is it that Dach brings to the table exactly?
If there is one standout difference between the two Dach bothers, it is that Colton likes to shoot. While he is not considered a selfish player in any regard, he has not had any trouble taking open shots and finding the back of the net. In his 2020-21 campaign with Saskatoon, Dach finished with 20 points in 20 games (11 of which where goals). Dach has shown the ability to snipe from the outside, while also scoring from high danger areas. Passing too often in prime scoring chances has been an early criticism of Kirby Dach in the early stages of his professional career.
Colton Dach on the difference between him and his brother Kirby: "He's a pass-first player, I'm a shoot-first player." #Blackhawks— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) July 24, 2021
While Colton Dach has not had the type of success you’d like to see with zone exits, he has been noticeably good when it comes to offensive zone entries. Dach has shown to be a very capable puck carrier, not turning the puck over often. This, paired with crisp passing and his scoring ability, may be what the Hawks are hoping that Dach can provide in the future.
Dach has shown many of the attributes that teams are looking for in forwards, in order to excel in today’s NHL. The question is, can he prove himself at the pro level? Although his height and large stature were definite advantages for him in the WHL, Dach will need to add some muscle as he continues to grow into his body, as playing against much more aggressive NHL level competition calls for the ability to knock opponents off the puck and win board battles. At his height, the Hawks will likely want to see Dach play in front of the net, as well.
In recent history, the Blackhawks have not had many issues when it comes to drafting forward prospects. While it is hard to tell how soon Dach could make his way to the NHL, he undoubtably has the size, speed and skills that the Hawks need, in order to compete in a tough Central Division.
Calling Colton Dach a “future top six forward” may be pushing it. However, if his development goes according to plan, he could find himself contributing in a top-nine role. With the skillset he provides, he has the potential to be useful on special teams, be it as a finisher or net-front presence on the power play, as well as a viable penalty killer.
While the Dach family seems to be all smiles now, no competitor wants to just be known only as someone’s “younger brother”. Colton Dach will have to come into this season with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is more than just the that: which is exactly what the Blackhawks need him to do.