How high is Kirby Dach’s ceiling for the Chicago Blackhawks, and will he ever be a first-line center in the NHL?
The opportunity to obtain a draft pick in the top 3 selections doesn’t come often, but it’s one the Chicago Blackhawks had in 2019 when they landed the 3rd overall pick via the NHL lottery draft. What was to be done with this selection, was up for discussion.
There are two strategies for drafting players: select a player out of a position of need, or select the best player who is available on the board at the time.
Then general manager, Stan Bowman, dedicated the third overall pick to center Kirby Dach out of the WHL playing for the Saskatoon Blades. It was clear then, that the Chicago Blackhawks were going to continue with status quota and draft based on positional need. At the time, the Hawks had no reliable second-line center with an elite skill set to pair with Patrick Kane.
Now, 131 games into his NHL career, Dach has scored just 17 goals and 36 assists, having yet to find his scoring touch. Even playing in between Kane and Alex DeBrincat, he’s struggled to find the stat sheet consistently. Projected to score just 32 points on the year (per EliteProspects), and having an abysmal faceoff win% of 33.55%, there remains a major question about his ceiling.
Based on his first three years, how high is Kirby Dach’s ceiling for the Chicago Blackhawks, and will he ever be a true first-line center in the NHL?
The biggest outlier in Kirby Dach’s favor is how young he is. Dach is only 21-years old and has been playing in the NHL since being drafted as an 18-year old. Today’s players typically don’t hit their stride until their 23rd or 24th trip around the sun.
No, his scoring touch isn’t there yet, but he has found relative success in the NHL thanks to his strong 6’4″ – 200 lbs. frame which he uses to maintain control of the puck and drive-through traffic to cut to the net. If he can find a chippier style of play that utilizes his size and can start lowering the shoulder and crushing opposing players, Dach can become an invaluable asset to Chicago, as physicality is something of a rare commodity for the Blackhawks.
What’s standing in the way of becoming a true first-line center in the NHL for Kirby Dach are two things: (1) He’s atrocious at faceoffs and (2) He’s yet to produce “wow” moments that we see from players in his draft class like New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes and Anaheim Ducks phenom Trevor Zegras. He’s good, but there’s never a moment in a game where we glue our eyes to the TV wondering what Dach is going to do next.
As mentioned above, while Kirby is still very young, there’s not a whole lot to go off of what he’s done thus far. If these past three years of his NHL career are any indication, Kirby Dach has the potential to be a middle of the lineup centerman.
On a winning team, he could be an elite third-line playmaker or be an above-average second-line center for the Chicago Blackhawks. For now, the front office better start looking for potential successors for Jonathan Toews on the first line.