With the annual Blackhawks prospect and development camp opening next week, there will be a lot of talk about the shiny new center wearing No. 77, Kirby Dach.
When the Blackhawks went off the “script” in at the NHL draft a few weeks ago, the fan base was a bit surprised. With all the coverage and endless mock drafts it would be hard to say any of us were truly shocked, but surprised is a safe label. Most of the people who cover the team were fairly certain that it was mostly a two-horse race between Bowen Byram and Alex Turcotte, while Kirby Dach was the long-shot making a late push.
As we all saw, the Blackhawks selected Dach.
Honestly, I much preferred that they pick a forward. They have enough higher-end defensemen in the pipeline and no quality forwards. Sure, they might not have a Byram-type defenseman, but they have a pretty close version in last year’s top pick, Adam Boqvist. The bottom line is that no one they picked was a slam dunk to make the roster, and, even if they do/did, an 18-year-old kid is not moving the needle for this organization for 2019–20.
This brings me to this latest silly notion that if Dach does not play the entire season with the Blackhawks, Stan Bowman somehow failed and is due to be fired. That is complete and utter nonsense. If he blows the doors off the United Center this fall and makes the team, that would be wonderful. It is very likely, though, that Dach could land back in Saskatoon even after a potential nine-game NHL trial period…and that is alright.
In last year’s draft class, only eight first round picks played in the NHL and just five of those played more than 10 games: Rasmus Dahlin (BUF), Andrei Svechnikov (CAR), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (MTL), Brady Tkachuk (OTT) and Isac Lundestrom (ANA). Of those first four players, they all played over 70 games and had over 34 points. Lundestrom played only 15 games at the beginning of the season and had only two assists before being sent to Sweden and eventually to the AHL.
The previous year, it took eventual 2019 Calder Trophy winner Elias Pettersson (No. 5 overall) and Calder finalist Miro Heiskanen (No. 3 overall) a full year of development before making the NHL. The fourth overall pick, Cale Makar, spent the entire last season in college and made his NHL debut in the final days of the regular season.
You can see where I am going here.
Do not be surprised if Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are the only players from this draft that play in the NHL this season. Despite all the media hoopla and comparisons surrounding Byram, he is still only an 18-year-old defenseman that might take some time to adjust. Going back to the WHL could only help him. Alex Turcotte is already committed to Wisconsin and will spend at least one season playing there before taking the ice for the Los Angeles Kings.
Even Jonathan Toews, who could possibly be the best center in franchise history, went back to college for a year when he was selected third overall. So, imagine saying Dale Tallon should have been fired because Toews did not play in the NHL in 2006, or calling for the heads of Jim Nill or Jim Benning because Heiskanen or Pettersson took an additional year to develop.
By all accounts, none of those players are busts and have bright NHL futures ahead. Racing a teenager, used to playing against other teenagers, into the NHL against men just to prove some kind of convoluted point is just irresponsible and anyone advocating that should be embarrassed.
Let the Blackhawks develop the players on the timeline best for the player. When Bowman eventually gets fired (and he will because no GM stays forever), it should be because of more than one draft pick not being forced to flip a switch and go from teenager-to-man in three months.
Feel free to comment and discuss below.