After the top two picks went as expected, the Chicago Blackhawks really got the draft started when they selected Kirby Dach with the third overall pick on Friday night.
Dach, a big forward measuring 6-foot-4 and 198 pounds, was lauded for his ability to play with a physical edge and his ability to drive to the net, and the Blackhawks are hoping that he will be able to compete at the NHL level right away next season.
The big question, of course, is what exactly the Blackhawks are getting with the selection. Dach had some strong numbers last season with the Saskatoon Blades, scoring 25 goals and dishing out 48 assists, but with the team passing on a defenseman in Bowen Byram and passing on other speedy forwards like Trevor Zegras, some fans are curious about the motivation behind drafting Dach.
In all likelihood, the Blackhawks envision Dach as the type of player who can play a facilitating role for wingers like Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane, possibly as soon as next season. He has excellent hands and is an extremely good passer, and his high assist totals at every level of hockey he’s played indicate good ice vision and a willingness to drive offense with precise passes.
That vision is backed up by several scouting reports on the forward, with ISS Hockey complimenting him on his “great combination of size, strength, and puck skills” and Future Considerations lauding his “very soft hands” around the net.
With great hands and some physical play, Dach has drawn comparisons to Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf, and he could potentially fit in well as a number two or three center in Jeremy Colliton’s system.
While there aren’t a lot of knocks on Dach’s game overall, there are questions about whether he’ll stick in the NHL to start the new season, a potential issue for a Blackhawks team that is trying to maximize the remaining windows of players like Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Bowman said that Dach will have “every opportunity” to make the NHL roster this season, but that’s far from a guarantee.
Bowman and company will also have to answer is whether they made a mistake in not taking Byram with the third pick. The defenseman, widely considered to be the top defenseman in the draft, ended up going to the Colorado Avalanche with the fourth selection, and he will be a tremendous fit for the team’s divisional rival as he fires passes to Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and the rest of the club’s speedy forwards.
Finally, there is the question about what the selection of Dach could mean for Dylan Strome. The forward had a tremendous year in the 2018-19 campaign, but he is due for a significant pay raise, and the Blackhawks may try to flip him for other assets if Dach ends up living up to the hype afforded the third overall pick.
The answer to that query remains to be seen, but the Blackhawks clearly envision Dach filling a role that only one other center on their roster (that means Toews) currently fills. The pick could end up being a critical one for Bowman’s future in Chicago, and if it pans out, it could provide a big boost to a club desperate to get back into the postseason.