It’s safe to say the Blackhawks threw a curve ball with their selection. Most of the mock drafts had Chicago taking Bowen Byram or Alex Turcotte. So when they announced that they were selecting Kirby Dach, a 6’4 center out of the Western Hockey League, it came as a bit of a shock.
Blackhawks fans all over social media starting venting their rage, or rather heartbreak, that the team didn’t take a projected number one defenseman in Byram, or the Jonathan Toews-like center in Turcotte. However, I’m here to say two simple words: Calm. Down.
Dach was still considered a top talent in the draft. For one thing, he’s got size and a decent amount of speed. He’s just learning how to use that size to wreck havoc on opposing players. The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler said in his first round winners and losers article that Chicago was an overtime loser with this selection. However, he gave some good reasons on why they should be excited, saying ,“He’s legit. Going to be an impact second center or a low-end first center. Decent skater for his size too.”
With Toews still in his prime and Dylan Strome showing he can thrive on the second line, Chicago would have Dach on the third line for the next couple years, where he can properly develop. For one thing, Dach resembles the Blackhawks playing style: Puck-possession and protection. Wheeler even said that Dach is similar to Dylan Strome, albeit with a less-effective shot, but better skating. Considering that Strome seemed to thrive since coming to Chicago, that’s not a bad comparison.
One of the other positives about Dach is the fact that he plays both offense AND defense. He was playing 20+ minutes a game for Saskatoon, often taking on the opponents best players. The other Athletic writer who covers NHL prospects, Corey Pronman, noted that he “made a ton of great defensive plays on the backcheck.” Based on pure talent, Pronman said that Dach could be the third or fourth-best player in the draft.
As for player comparisons, scouts have had a range of players that Dach resembled. The most common comparison seen is that he resembles Mark Scheifele, of the Winnipeg Jets. If Dach can max out as Scheifele, then the Blackhawks just selected someone who scores at a point-per-game, and is an underrated star in the NHL, when healthy. That’s not a horrible selection at all, especially considering that he would probably start as their third-line center, behind Toews and Strome. Having center depth like that would make Chicago a lot harder to compete against.
The other reason to not get this hyped up about a draft pick is the fact they haven’t played a single NHL game. Nobody knows how these players are actually going to fare down the road. There’s a good chance that Dach could be among one of the best players selected in the draft. Yes, there’s a chance that he could end up being a bust, but if there is one area to trust Stan Bowman and Mark Kelley, it’s the draft. They’ve proven time and time again that they can identify talent and maximize it to their full potential.
As for those who are screaming about not taking Byram, the Blackhawks defensive pipeline is flush with close-to-NHL ready prospects. Players like Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell, considered Chicago’s “Big Four,” are close to breaking in with the Blackhawks in the next year or two, with Jokiharju set to compete for a roster spot this upcoming season. There’s already a defensive log jam, and adding Byram would have complicated that.
The bottom line is simple: Wait and see. Dach could end up being one of the best players to come out of this draft, and Chicago would once again look smart for taking him. After all, they took some kid named Alex DeBrincat with the 39th overall pick, despite scouts saying he was “too small” to excel in the NHL and he’s already been a 40-goal scorer. I’ll trust the Blackhawks scouts on this one. Welcome to Chicago, Kirby!