Blackhawks Believe Kirby Dach Can Define New Era

"We got a special player here," general manager Stan Bowman says.

Chris Emma
June 24, 2019 - 1:25 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- On the night of April 9, the Blackhawks defied the lottery odds and landed the third overall pick in the NHL Draft. Around the same time, the Saskatoon Blades earned a 1-0 win over the Prince Albert Raiders in their Western Hockey League second-round playoff series. 

The lone goal was scored by 18-year-old center Kirby Dach, who was beginning to stand alone as the Blackhawks' choice for that third pick. While many thought general manager Stan Bowman would call the name of intriguing defenseman Bowen Byram or electrifying scorer Alex Turcotte, he instead announced Dach as the choice at No. 3 overall in the NHL Draft last Friday.

The reason? The Blackhawks saw a player in Dach who kept rising to the occasion, a trait that defined them as they won three Stanley Cup championships in this past decade.

"We got a special player here," Bowman said as the Blackhawks introduced Dach to their organization Monday.

The Blackhawks rolled out the red carpet for Dach and his family in the east atrium of the United Center, with team chairman Rocky Wirtz, Hall of Famer Denis Savard -- the third overall pick in 1980 draft -- and dozens of members to the organization on hand to welcome the top draft pick.

Dach led all Western Hockey League rookies in 2017-'18 with 39 assists in 52 games, then elevated his game with 25 goals to go with 48 assists this past season. He was the driving force behind the Blades' run to the WHL conference semifinals and scored two goals and added five assists as Canada won the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in April. As the stages grew bigger, Dach was better. 

Thirteen years to the date of the Blackhawks selecting Jonathan Toews third overall, the team believes it has that caliber of player and person in Dach arriving for what's hoped to be another era of chasing the Stanley Cup.

"Winning just means everything," Dach said. "There's a saying: You got to hate to lose before you like to win, and I hate to lose. At anything I do, I always have to win -- no matter what. It's something that drives me."

Dach scored five goals and tallied three assists in the Blades' playoff run this past spring. With his team in a 2-0 hole against the Raiders, Dach's game-winning goal in Game 3 pushed Saskatoon and Prince Albert to a seven-game series. Dach's Blades would fall there, but it left him hungry in leading Canada to the Hlinka Gretzky Cup championship.

While Byram or Turcotte were considered more talented prospects by some talent evaluators, the qualities Dach showed with trophies on the line stood out to Bowman and the Blackhawks.

"Players can either get intimidated by that or they're able to take their game up to the next level and do things they haven't done all season," Bowman said. "He demonstrated the ability to continue to be the talented player he was but also show he wasn't going to back down. That's the attribute you need to be a successful NHL player. If you're going to make a playoff run, you're going to be tested. It was nice to see how he responded."

For Bowman, it will be a defining pick for the Blackhawks' future and his place as general manager. Chicago went 13 years between third picks because of what Toews and others have brought to the team since being selected.

Toews proved to be the ultimate leader and the catalyst for the Blackhawks hanging three championship banners inside the United Center. Dach will join Toews in Chicago soon enough -- perhaps even this next season, as Bowman indicated is possible. He will join a present team believing it can win the Stanley Cup once more. 

The arrival of Dach bridges the end of one era for the Blackhawks with what they hope is the start of a new one.

"The ultimate goal in hockey is to win the Stanley Cup," Dach said. "I'm going to work as hard as I can and push myself to get there. That's what I want to do."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.