Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton announced yesterday that rookie and 2019 third overall draft pick Kirby Dach would be staying in the NHL with the Blackhawks for the foreseeable future.
The team still has the option to return Dach to the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, if they deem it necessary, but when he takes the ice for his ninth NHL game (presumably against the San Jose Sharks next Tuesday) his entry-level contract will kick into effect.
The Blackhawks have been very careful not to expose Dach to more overwhelming situations than he can handle to begin his pro career. In his six NHL games, the 18-year-old center has two points (one goal, one assist) while averaging 11:59 of ice time per game. Colliton has also been sheltering him, somewhat, starting Dach’s shifts 66% of the time in the offensive zone and completely leaving him off the power play and penalty kill lines.
That said, his possession numbers have been positive, and he has not looked out of place. Playing his natural position of center, Dach will need to work on his face off win percentage of 33%. He has also spent over half of his shifts with either Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw or Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome.
It is debatable whether this is the right plan for the Blackhawks’ top prospect, who turns 19 on Jan. 21. Shielding him from what could quickly turn into another rough and contentious season might avoid any added drama or bad habits but sending him back to the WHL to “bum slay” for another season might not build his development either. Ideally, some more time with the IceHogs in Rockford would probably be best for his development, but the transfer agreement with the CHL specifies that players that are not 19 years of age before Jan. 1 can only be sent back to their CHL team and cannot return until that team’s season has finished.