Kirby Dach arrives in Chicago

Kirby Dach

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Kirby Dach reacts after being selected third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

One ceiling newly-acquired 6’4 center Kirby Dach doesn’t have to duck under is his own. The 198-lb 18-year-old’s last few days have been a whirlwind after being selected at number three overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft on Friday.

“It’s been crazy,” Dach said Monday during a press conference at the United Center’s east atrium. “After hearing my name called, I didn’t hear anything or remember anything — I had to watch the video over a couple times to remember what happened, I kind of just blacked out in the moment and enjoyed it.

“I flew home two days ago and flew here yesterday and it’s been awesome. I got to tour the practice facility and the rink today and meet everybody, and it’s been amazing. The facility here is first class and I can’t wait to get started in a couple weeks in camp.”

The sky seems to be the limit for Dach, who scored 25 goals and had 48 assists for the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League last year. The forward from Alberta is known for his ability to generate a lot of offense, often by driving to the net and has a strong back-check. He also plays physical, has good vision and a good passing ability.

Perhaps better than the previous attributes is Dach’s compete level when the going gets tough. Blackhawks VP and GM Stan Bowman was very impressed with how Kirby answered back when being targeted in last year’s WHL playoffs and notes Kirby could be targeted by the opposition when entering the NHL.

“I guess in a certain way that will happen,” Bowman said. “When you’re one of the top picks in a draft I think other teams take note of you before you even establish yourself as a player and you have a talent level that they have to pay attention to. The best players in the world are in the NHL, they’re going to compete against him, they want to try to get him off his game.

“The thing that was impressive in that playoff run was just how, and Kirby has talked about this in the past, he looked at his season and before the playoffs started he said I really need to take my game up a level if I want my team to have a chance. That’s the moment of the year when you can tell a lot about a player because the intensity level changes, you play on the same team for a seven-game series.

“Whereas, same thing in the NHL, you play games during the year, you have one off, it’s one of many games, but when you play the same team night after night after night, they have a game plan on how they want to beat you and sometimes players, you can get intimidated by that …

“They aren’t able to take their game up to the next level and do things they maybe hadn’t done all season but he demonstrated the ability to continue to be the talented player he was but also show them he wasn’t going to back down. That’s an attribute that you need if you’re going to be a successful NHL player, and you’re going to make a playoff run, you’re going to be tested and it was nice to see how he responded.”

The Blackhawks could certainly use some help down the middle. Dach’s size and skill would be a welcome addition to the team’s offense. It’s uncertain how long the prospect’s development will take, but Bowman said Kirby will get “every opportunity” to make the team’s opening night roster for the upcoming season.

Picking Dach was somewhat surprising. The Hawks had a chance to grab six-foot defenseman Bowen Byram, an elite skater who specializes in zone entries and exits, the latter of which the Hawks need vast improvement. Byram also appeared to be the best d-man in the draft by a wide margin.

Chicago also could have chosen center Alex Turcotte, a scrappy, play-making forward that drew comparisons to Jonathan Toews. A factor that might have carried some weight, or height rather, in the decision is Dach being five inches taller than Turcotte.

Perhaps THE factor that separated Dach from the rest was his maturity and the way he dedicates himself to the game.

“Obviously my family gave up quite a bit for me to be on the right path, and my parents made sure that I made every right decision and helped me and guided me along the way,” Dach said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am. My brother and sister, we’re all a pretty ultra-competitive family.

“Even running up the stairs for dinner is a battle and there’s lots of holes in the wall in our house, but they’ve been since fixed since I moved out. … We’re very close and loving and supportive of each other, and obviously my brother’s going to go on to do great things in the game of hockey too and I’m going to support him, and my sister’s going to go to university and have a degree and have a great job and a wonderful life, so I’m proud of my siblings and my parents.”

Other picks

The Blackhawks other 2019 selections included: defenseman Alex Vlasic (43rd overall), forward Michal Teply (105th overall), forward Antti Saarela (123rd overall), goaltender Dominic Basse (167th overall) and defenseman Cole Moberg (172nd overall).

We have a trade to announce

On Saturday during the draft the Hawks acquired forward John Quenneville, a Coach Q cousin, from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward John Hayden.

Catch up on the Blackhawks 2019 Draft picks and moves with the WGN Radio Blackhawks Draft special!

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