Getting to Know Marko Dano

The Chicago Blackhawks sent shockwaves through the hockey world when they dealt soon-to-be restricted free agent Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In return, the Blackhawks received Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, and Corey Tropp. I’ve already profiled Anisimov, and today I’ll be taking a look at Marko Dano and what he may bring to the table as one of the newest members of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Dano the Prospect

Marko Dano was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets at 27th overall in the 1st round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. As a late first round pick in what was a considerably deep draft, expectations for Dano were higher than they would be for your average 27th overall pick. Two years removed from 2013’s draft day, Dano has already exceeded what was expected of him at the time, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Despite his young age (he won’t be 21 until November), Dano boasts an incredible amount of international tournament hockey experience at all different age levels. As a native of Slovakia, Dano has represented his country at the U18 World Junior Championships once (4P in 6GP), and the U20 World Junior Championships twice (12P in 12GP). He also played for the U18 team in games and tournaments outside of the U18 World Junior Championships, where he was much more dominant (13P in 5GP).

At the club level, Dano spent his draft eligible season in the KHL playing for HC Slovan Bratislava. As a 17 year old, he put up 7 points in 37 games that season.  He then went on to participate in the 2013 World Championships for Slovakia, putting up 2 points in 5 games.

With his draft eligible season in the books, it was time to find out where Dano would land as an NHL prospect. NHL Central Scouting ranked Dano 12th among International skaters. When Columbus selected Dano at 27th overall, they ensured that he would be picked higher than quite a few of his European counterparts who were ranked ahead of him.

Here’s what his scouting report from Future Considerations looks like:

“Dano is a skilled two-way forward who skates with good mobility and effort. He keeps his feet moving and uses his hands well to be elusive with the puck. He shows no fear in taking the puck into high-traffic areas and can play the chippy, gritty style of game. He’s defensively responsible and keeps close tabs on his assignments before jumping on the offensive.”

With his draft fate determined, Dano returned to the KHL for his 18/19-year-old post-draft season. His production actually slipped some from the previous year to this one, as Dano only managed 5 points in 41 games. The Blue Jackets still showed good faith in his development, however, as they brought him over to play for the AHL’s Springfield Falcons when his season in Europe ended. Dano played 15 games between the regular season and the playoffs with the Falcons, producing eight points in that time frame.

With Dano’s draft year plus one season in the books, he hoped to be ready to make the jump to seeing some NHL time in 2014-2015. This brings us to…

Dano the Player

This season, Dano performed at a much higher level than even those among his most optimistic supporters would have expected. He split time between Columbus and Springfield. In 35 games with the Blue Jackets, Dano scored eight goals and dished out 13 assists, good for 21 points. In 39 games with Springfield, Dano put up 19 points.

Granted that it was a small sample size, but Dano’s corsi relative at the NHL level this season was an astonishingly good +7.0%. In simpler terms, when Dano was on the ice, the Blue Jackets controlled 54% of even strength shot attempts, but while Dano was off the ice, the Blue Jackets only controlled 47% of those attempts. It’s early on in his career yet, but the early returns seem to indicate that Dano could develop into a high-end possession player, which is something that is useful to any team.

In this coming season, Dano will be given every opportunity to become an everyday NHL player for the defending Stanley Cup champions. It’s a huge opportunity for the young Slovak, and I fully expect him to take it and run with it. He’s one of those kids who plays far beyond his years immediately. He can slide all over the lineup. I could see him being a solid complement to Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa (his boyhood idol) on the first line just as easily as I could see him excelling in a third line role.

In terms of how each of the players projected as young prospects, the comparison between Dano and Saad is really not all that far-fetched. Saad also cracked the NHL level in his draft year plus two season just as Dano did. Saad’s points per game rate that year was .58, while Dano’s was an even .60. Saad measures in at 6’1″ 203 lbs, while Dano is only slightly smaller at 6’0″ 198 lbs. Both players are versatile, defensively responsible wingers This isn’t to say that Dano is a guarantee or even likely to develop into the type of player that  Saad has become, but there certainly are a high number of parallels between the two players when y0u compare where Dano is now to where Saad was at the same age.

Given all of this, it certainly will be intriguing to watch Dano continue to develop with the league’s best team. In terms of what they got back for Saad, the team certainly could have done a lot worse than they did in getting Anisimov and Dano. I will guarantee you that. Thanks for reading.