2020-21 Team: Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Date of Birth: Jan. 4, 2003
Place of Birth: Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta
Ht: 6-foot-4 Wt: 205 pounds
Position: Center/Left Wing
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligible
When the Central Scouting Service (CSS) came out with its annual draft rankings, more than a few eyebrows were raised at some of the final placements. It was surprising to see Mason McTavish second among North American skaters, followed by Kent Johnson at third and, very interestingly, Matt Beniers at sixth, who has long been in the conversation for the first overall pick in 2021 ever since his strong showing at the 2021 World Juniors. But the player who maybe had the most meteoric rise was Colton Dach of the Saskatoon Blades.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Prior to the CSS list, Dach was hardly considered more than a fourth-round target; only two major publications ranked him within their top-100. However, the CSS ranked him as their 19th-best skater in North America and the third-best skater out of the WHL (second if not considering Cole Sillinger, who spent the season in the USHL), ahead of the likes of Logan Stankoven, Olen Zellweger, Connor Roulette, and Ryder Korczak, all of whom have been considered first-round selections at one point or another. So how did the underrated prospect for the Saskatoon Blades climb up so quickly?
The first thing you may notice is Dach’s surname, and yes, he is the younger brother of Kirby Dach, the young star for the Chicago Blackhawks. Unsurprisingly, the pair share a lot of traits with each other. Both stand 6-foot-4, with Colton reaching the height after a growth spurt this season, and are separated by just four pounds, which is impressive when comparing a junior player to an NHL player. They also play a similar 200-foot game, exhibiting high hockey sense, and don’t shy away from physicality, although Colton is the grittier of the two. For those who have seen how Kirby has developed so far, those comparisons are a great sign for Colton.
But that’s not to say that Colton is exactly like his brother. Unlike Kirby, Colton is much more of a natural goalscorer, owning a strong, accurate shot that he can use to pick any corner of the net he wants. This season, he led the Blades with 11 goals in 20 games, translating to 37 goals over a full WHL season. To compare to the league’s last full campaign, only 16 players equaled or surpassed that total in 2018-19. He also has demonstrated the ability to pick off teammates with long, crisp passes that create excellent goal-scoring opportunities, and he finished the season at a point-per-game pace. Dach possesses a strong offensive game that will make him a great junior player next season.
However, his offensive totals may not be quite as impressive as they initially seem. With the WHL playing just a 24-game season, a lot of players were able to finish at a point-per-game pace. Whereas his scoring rate would have placed him in the top-15 in scoring two seasons ago, he ranked 30th this season in goals in 2020-21. He also finished the season with just nine assists, which seems to hint that he was benefitting greatly from his linemates Tristan Robins, a second-round pick last year, and Kyle Crnkovic, a second-year draft-eligible forward who led the team with 32 points. He clearly played his best hockey when he was centering the top line, hinting that his totals may have been inflated somewhat.
There are more holes to Dach’s game that have some scouts concerned, such as his acceleration and explosiveness, which could limit his ability to carry the play. But, much like his brother, he can play well at every end of the ice. He’ll play gritty and physical when necessary, or fire a long pass to set up a breakout play, or position himself squarely in front of the net, ready to catch a pass and put it by the goalie. A lot of players can do those things better, but few can do everything better than him. As the old adage goes, ‘Jack of all trades, a master of none, though oftentimes better than a master of one.’ That’s what makes Dach such an intriguing prospect, and why he’s suddenly jumped up on some rankings.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Colton Dach – NHL Draft Projection
Prior to the CSS’s rankings, Dach seemed destined to be a late pick, likely in the fifth or sixth rounds with a chance to get taken in the fourth. But now it appears that some scouts value his skillset a lot more than others, and his new ranking implies he could sneak up into the second. The safe bet is to expect him to be a third-round selection, as he’s a riskier pick in that his upside is largely unknown, but he’s still far safer than some other selections that don’t have his size or hockey sense.
“Colton definitely has the size, the pedigree, the offensive game, and he’s got an edge to his game as well. He’s a versatile guy, able to play both center and wing, so I think he’ll be a guy who really rises as we play [this season] and he’s ready to take on the challenge.” Colin Priestner, Blades General Manager (from ‘Saskatoon Blades’ Colton Dach cracks Central Scouting’s players-to-watch list’, Saskatoon Star Phoenix – 2/2/21)
“He may not have as strong a pre-draft reputation as his older bother Kirby did in 2019, but Colton’s a player and then some. He has the same size and long reach that helps him dominate the puck in the possession game but also shows slickness and soft hands when working the puck to his linemates. Dach has spent most of the season centering skilled playmakers Kyle Crnkovic and Tristen Robbins, so the big guy slots nicely into a role as a slot or net-front presence, especially on the power play.” Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
“I still see so much of Matthew Tkachuk in Colton Dach’s game. Much like Matthew, [just] another half step of explosion in his stride would open up a whole new world of options for him. Very talented player. Understands the flow of the game so well.” Joel Henderson, Future Considerations
- Puck handling
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Controlling the pace of the game
- Long-term potential
Although he currently plays center, Dach will likely be switched to the left-wing in the pro ranks and has already tried his hand at the position this season. That’s most likely because he just doesn’t have the top-end skill for him to remain a center in the NHL. The best-case scenario is he is a competent, bottom-six two-way winger who could slot into the center if necessary and could be relied on in all situations, possibly along the lines of Garnet Hathaway or Barclay Goodrow. But, like those comparisons, it will take a significant amount of time for him to develop into that, so draft wisely.
Risk – 3/5, Reward – 2.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 6/10, Defence – 6/10
Dach represented Team Alberta at the Canada Winter Games in 2018-19, where he scored three goals and six points in six games and helped his team win a bronze medal over Team Saskatchewan.
Colton Dach Statistics
An elementary teacher by day and an avid hockey fan, Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors, and NHL Entry Draft.