The No. 3 overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft was impressive in spurts during his first professional season.
After the Chicago Blackhawks selected 18-year-old forward Kirby Dach third in last summer’s NHL Draft, no one was quite sure whether he would make the jump to professional hockey or remain with the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL for another year. But after a strong showing at the Blackhawks prospect development camp last July, Dach’s chances of making the opening night roster appeared to be increasing. Unfortunately, at the 2019 Traverse City Prospect Tournament a few weeks later, he suffered a concussion after taking a nasty hit from Minnesota Wild prospect Darian Pilon.
The concussion cost Dach his training camp with the Blackhawks, and the team wound up sending him to Rockford for a conditioning stint early in October. After only three games with the team’s AHL affiliate though, the Hawks called up Dach to make his NHL debut against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 20. The St. Albert, Alberta native went on to score his first career goal in the next game against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Dach went on to play in 64 of the Blackhawks 70 games this season, finishing with eight goals and 15 assists for 23 points, which was tied for 11th among NHL rookies with 2019 No. 2 pick Kaapo Kaako. It is also worth mentioning that Dach finished with two more points than first-overall selection Jack Hughes, and his 23 points (along with Kaako) were the most of any player from the 2019 Draft.
Looking at some of Dach’s other numbers, he impressively scored all eight of his goals at even strength and shot 7.9 percent in 14:16 per game. The young forward struggled in the faceoff dot as expected, winning just 33.8 percent of his 147 draws on the year. While Dach didn’t exactly stuff the stat sheet in 2018-19, he noticeably progressed as the season went on and was playing very well down the stretch. The Blackhawks allowed Dach to learn through his mistakes this year, which will only help him grow in the future.
Dach’s possession numbers were about as expected with a 48.4 Corsi percentage, while he was on the ice for 35 goals for to 33 against at even strength. The Blackhawks felt comfortable with starting Dach in the defensive zone 47 percent of the time, which is another testament to their patience with their top prospect this season. That number is probably a bit high for an 18-year-old center, but the best way to learn is through game experience.
As for Dach’s top performance, that was probably one of his four multi-point games he picked up this season. Dach’s only two-goal game of the year came in a 4-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres back in November, where he scored a beautiful backhand goal past goaltender Carter Hutton.
Overall, Dach did not have the statistical season that some were hoping he would have in 2019-20, but he was still impressive for a teenager in a man’s league. There were moments throughout the season where Dach was clearly becoming more comfortable in the NHL, and it was exciting to see him progress throughout his 64 games played. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound forward certainly was fun to watch this year, and the sky truly is the limit for the 19-year-old Dach.
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