The Chicago Blackhawks are in a good place. They have won five of their last six games and have been playing well for a record of 6-10-2. You know the saying, “It takes a village?” Well, that is what describes the Blackhawks during this stretch. It is very hard to win games in the NHL and wins come down to a full team effort. Everyone pitches in, in some way, to help secure a win.
When a team goes on a hot streak, it can be difficult to point out the negatives. So if there are things to stick out, it’s not for reasons you want them to. Kirby Dach is a player that fits that description. While he has done just enough for the Blackhawks to win, his play has to be taken to the next level going forward. Here are some observations.
Dach’s Playing Style
For a refresher, Dach was drafted third overall in the 2019 NHL draft. At 6-foot-4 and 197 pounds, the Blackhawks looked to him as someone that could lead the next generation of Hawks’ centers. His size combined with skill gave the team a different look for a player that could potentially take Jonathan Toews’ spot as the number one center for years to come. He is in his third season with the Blackhawks and his tenure has come with some bumps. Because of the delayed season with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019-20, to breaking his wrist at the World Junior Championships that caused him to play in only 18 games last season, this is his true, first full season.
Dach’s playing style with the Blackhawks can be best described as a set-up man. He likes to drive the plays and is considered to be a “pass-first” type of player. He wants to be active on the forecheck and plays the bumper role on the first power-play unit. He also has taken pride in being a net-front presence, which suits him well because of his size. He can screen the opposition’s goalie as well as try for tip-ins or redirects. Colin Priesner, the president and general manager of the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League, summed up Dach and his brother Colton’s game in an interview with The Athletic.
Colton is always looking to finish and has an absolute cannon of a shot. I think next year he’s going to be a 40-50-goal guy for us, for sure. Where Kirby was the 30-goal guy and he’d get you 70 assists or whatever. Colton’s probably more of the 50-50 guy when it comes to goals and assists. Different players.from ‘How brothers Kirby and Colton Dach’s successes in hockey are fueled by a competitive and loving sibling rivalry’ – The AthleticNHL – 06/01/2021
Kirby played for the Blades from 2017-2019. Colton, another Blades’ alumni, is also a Blackhawks’ prospect, having recently been selected in the second round of the 2021 NHL Draft.
You can always tell the signs of a playmaker through their assists. If their assists outnumber their goals by a significant margin, then that’s the best indicator. Dach’s career stats are 13 goals, 28 assists, and 41 points in 100 games. This season, he has three goals, five assists, and eight points in 18 games. So, I’d say that quote nailed the playmaking side of his game.
The Third Overall Pick Persona Is Lacking
Because Dach was picked third overall in the draft, there are high expectations. Mainly because the Blackhawks have not had a top-three pick since Kane and Toews were drafted in 2006 and 2007. Other prominent third overall picks in the league include Matt Duchene (Nashville Predators), Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers), Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers), and Chicago’s very own Toews.
All of those players are All-Stars. Right now, Dach does not fit the All-Star mold because the production is not there. When someone gets drafted that high as a center, there are two things you want to see: faceoff wins and goals. Right now, he produces little of both. Dach’s career faceoff percentage (FO%) is 35%. In 18 games this season, his FO% is 30.9%. And as previously mentioned, 13 goals in 100 career games is not going to cut it either.
Currently, he is the first line center between Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. Because he is playing beside two elite players, you would hope to see more. Particularly coming from playing with Kane, since he is known for elevating his linemate’s play. However, there hasn’t been a lot of elevated play from Dach. He has been streaky. He can come up with great assists or redirects at times, but the goals are not there. In general, the Blackhawks have trouble scoring. They average 2.17 goals per game and that is where you want to see the third overall pick shine. He gets a lot of opportunities to score, but unfortunately, they rarely end up in the back of the net. According to Natural Stat Trick, he has 28 scoring chances and 16 high danger chances this season, but it has only translated into three goals.
Moreover, his 30.9% faceoff wins is the lowest of the Blackhawks’ center group. That’s not sustainable for a first-line center. He is supposed to take over for Toews, but we have yet to see that ability at the dot and in the offense.
Potential Going Forward
I want to clarify that Dach has a heck of a lot of talent and can do the little things well. The potential is still there. He has made some pretty plays that have set up players like DeBrincat, that have ended in goals. The problem is that skill hasn’t been shown consistently on a game-to-game basis. I don’t think he has produced as hoped thus far. He is only 20-years-old and has a lot more hockey in front of him, but he has to start showing more.
Especially because it looks like head coach Derek King will keep him as the team’s first-line center for the foreseeable future. He has to start proving that he could potentially lead this team for the next 10-15 years like the Blackhawks envision. No one knows that more than Dach himself. He admitted that he knows he has to score more. (from ‘Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach knows he needs to score more to become a true No. 1 center. Here’s how he’ll do it’- The AthleticNHL – 04/15/2021).
Dach seems like a great guy with a good work ethic and attitude, so it’s easy to root for a player like that’s success. The good news is, there are 64 games left and that’s plenty of time for him to make a name for himself this season.
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Just a small town girl with Midwestern charm; combined with a love of dogs, writing, frappuccinos, Chicago-isms, sports, and a whole lot of Blackhawks hockey. Twitter: @brooke_lofo.