The 2019 No. 3 pick had an impressive showing in the postseason for the Blackhawks, but he knows there is plenty to improve on to have a successful sophomore season.
In the first few days of Blackhawks training camp as part of the NHL’s Return-To-Play Plan, there was a lot of talk surrounding the improvements rookie Kirby Dach made during the COVID-19 pause. Not only did the 19-year-old noticeably add on some muscle during the spring, but he also looked faster on the ice and more confident in his abilities.
In the 2019-20 regular season, Dach had moments where he showed the untapped potential of being a superstar in the league, but he also had spurts where he looked, well, like a teenager playing at the NHL level. Which, of course, he still is. Dach will not turn 20 years old until Jan. 21, 2021. In total, the Blackhawks 2019 first-round pick had 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 64 games while getting adjusted to the speed and intensity of professional hockey.
Following months of training and workouts, Dach looked like a completely different player in the 2020 postseason than he did prior to the pause. Dach spent a significant amount of his minutes in the playoffs with Patrick Kane on the Blackhawks’ second line, signifying that head coach Jeremy Colliton felt comfortable enough to play him in a major role. There were even a few games in the qualifying round against the Edmonton Oilers where Dach led all Blackhawks forwards in ice time.
In nine postseason games, Dach finished with one goal and five assists for six points and was one of the Blackhawks more noticeable players. Even after improving his game by monumental strides in essentially all aspects, Dach still feels like he can get a lot better in plenty of areas.
“You can never be fast enough, your shot can never be hard enough. I’ll have some people look over my game and look at areas (where) I can improve at offensively and defensively and where I can be better with and without the puck,” Dach said in a Zoom call with the media on Tuesday.
“Ill get the same routine I had going during COVID, still work on my body and move and make sure my body’s always flowing and in a good state where I’m not too rigid or gaining too much muscle. I want to add weight the right way and not add it on right away and have injury problems my whole career. This offseason, change a couple of things. Hopefully the progression keeps going upward.”
Throughout the postseason, there were a couple of instances where Dach — a notorious pass-first player — tried to make the fancy play rather than simply firing the puck on net. Dach knows that if he can establish a shooter’s mentality going forward, it will make life easier for both he and the Blackhawks.
“I think I just have to find more confidence in my shot, work on that over the break, find ways to put more pucks on net,” Dach said. “As a pass-first guy, if you can develop a shooting mentality, it’ll open up passing lanes for you, make it easier on your life. That’s still something I have to find a way to get better at.”
Let’s see that shooting mentality more often in 2020-21, Kirby.
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