The Chicago Blackhawks selected Kirby Dach with the third overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. While Dach was a surprise at third overall, he proved he was worthy of that selection in his rookie season. Dach is a big playmaking centre that draws many comparisons to San Jose Sharks‘ centre Joe Thornton. Dach is expected to take over for Jonathan Toews one day. While Dach didn’t have the best season statistically, he showed real promise as a future-NHLer which is exactly what you expected out of the 19-year-old. Dach showed his speed and skills in his rookie year, as well as his unique ability to always get into open ice. The Canadian has come a long way since his rookie season with the Saskatoon Blades. He will look to become a true impact player in his sophomore season with the Blackhawks.
Kirby Dach’s Rookie Season
Dach finished his rookie season with 8 goals and 23 points in 63 games. This tied Kaapo Kakko‘s point totals on the season and surpassed Jack Hughes‘ totals. This is great production when you consider that Kakko and Hughes were perceived to be a tier ahead of Dach. One of the areas Dach needs to improve in is in the faceoff circle, where he won just 33.8 percent of his draws. If Dach is going to develop as a centre in the NHL, he must work on this skill.
When looking at Dach’s analytics chart, it becomes clear that he wasn’t much of an impact player this season. He posted poor possession numbers and was near the bottom of the league in chances created while on the ice. However, Dach was a positive defensive player and was decent at suppressing shots against. This is outstanding for an 18-year-old and shows that Dach has some two-way upside later in his career. This chart also shows Dach’s outstanding transition ability. Dach is already elite at bringing the puck out of the defensive zone and entering the offensive zone, using his elusiveness to evade pressure in the neutral zone.
Another area that Dach needs to improve on from his rookie year is his powerplay impact. Dach was near the bottom of the league in his overall powerplay impact. The Blackhawks didn’t generate much quality or quantity with Dach on the man advantage. One of the main criticisms with Dach is that he doesn’t shoot enough, and his powerplay impact will increase when he fixes this. As Dach gets older and develops more chemistry with Dominik Kubalik, Patrick Kane and Toews, he will show that he can be a great player on the powerplay.
Kirby Dach’s role next season
Throughout the 2019-20 season, Dach’s role slowly increased as he gained more confidence and experience at the NHL level. The exciting thing about Kirby Dach is that he is still growing into his frame. He’s a bigger centre, so it will take him longer than some to find his footing as an impact player in the NHL. He showed flashes of this in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he used his size with his skill to score six points in nine games. If Dach can carry this into next season, he would be a solid second-line centre for the Blackhawks. He would be able to play with offensive talents like Kane and Alex DeBrincat which would inflate his offensive numbers. This would allow Kirby Dach to really focus on the defensive aspect of his game, and possibly develop into a shutdown centre.
Dach has a ton of potential for next season and could hit 50 points if he takes a step forward. If he’s given more ice time and uses his size to his advantage that should be easy for Dach. This would give the Blackhawks the centre core of Toews, Dach and Dylan Strome, which could propel them to playoff contention. As Dach works on his offensive game over the next few years, he will eventually take over for Toews. Dach will soon be the Blackhawks’ number-one centre, making him one of their key offensive pieces.
Kirby Dach’s long-term potential
Kirby Dach has the potential to be a star in the NHL. While he doesn’t have the potential that Hughes or Kakko does, he has the ceiling of a productive first-line centre. Dach could be a Pierre-Luc Dubois type, a first-line centre with great all-around ability. This would be great value for the Blackhawks at third overall considering Dubois was picked there too. While Dach won’t be the centrepiece of the offence, he doesn’t have to be. Toews and Kane are still young enough to have a huge impact on the Blackhawks’ offence. Kubalik and DeBrincat are young, talented scorers. The Blackhawks also have the 17th overall pick in the 2020 draft, which could be a talented forward such as Dylan Holloway, Connor Zary or Seth Jarvis.
Kirby Dach will be a crucial piece for the Blackhawks in the next few years. He will make the transition away from Kane and Toews much easier on Chicago, and will eventually take Toews’ role. Dach has already shown that he can perform great in the playoffs, a key part of Toews’ game. This clutch ability could give Dach a leadership role in the future, although it’s unlikely he will be captain. The Blackhawks made a great pick with Dach at third overall, and he will prove that as soon as next season.