It is SO cool when a fanbase comes together to show its spirit on the greatest website ever created, Twitter. While hot takes are a 24/7 game, draft time — no matter the sport — brings out the best in all of us. As all of us know, these hot takes are backed by months and months of grueling film sessions. Every March, keyboard warriors sit down and crunch film on upcoming NHL Draft prospects in hopes of finding that hidden gem.
Of course, when I say crunch film I mean read the first five picks of a mock draft and base your entire opinion off of that. Don’t understand what I’m talking about? Well, the Chicago Blackhawks’ surprise selection of center Kirby Dach at No. 3 overall can tell the tale.
Being somewhat of a hockey savant myself (sarcasm — but I have done a lot more research this year — meaning four more mock drafts — than usual) I can tell you that, indeed, I was rooting for the Hawks to bolster an area of weakness, defense, even further with the selection of Bowen Byram. Alex Turcotte, a Chicago-area kid himself, sounded like a not-too-bad investment either. So, as I sat on the couch preparing to watch the New Jersey Devils take Jack Hughes at No. 1 overall, I was surprised to see this tweet from Jay Zawaski:
In my 24 hour window as an NHL Draft expert, I hadn’t heard a whole lot about Dach being a possibility for the Hawks at No. 3, but if a group of people who have been around hockey their entire lives and won three Stanley Cups (most of them, at least) like Dach, then I like Dach.
The only problem with the selection was that everyone who crunched film (realized Dach was not named Bowen Byram or Alex Turcotte and/or watched one 10-second Dach highlight) did NOT like the pick.
While all these future NHL Network anchors had me sweating the pick I tried to sit back and trust the guys in charge, even if I’m admittedly not the biggest Stan Bowman fan.
Here’s the thing, though. I seem to remember a high Chicago draft pick just a few years back that everyone was immediately up in arms with. The Bears traded up to No. 2 to select potential quarterback of the future, Mitch Trubisky. As soon as that pick was made, I was one of the few stressing patience. Yes, I get it, Mitch hasn’t technically done anything yet, but you can see that he’s on a trajectory toward living up to his draft position.
Now, to the actual player at hand, Kirby Dach. First of all, I suggest reading Scott Powers’ piece on Dach if you subscribe to The Athletic. From that, and other podcasts I’ve listened to, it sounds like Dach fills a decade-long Hawks need in possessing size and the ability to be physical. As a more casual hockey viewer, it’s been easy to see, even through the duration of the Hawks’ Cup runs, that physicality was lacking. Take one look at the Blues-Bruins series and it’s evident that you won’t win without size. Much of what drove the Blues’ success was the size of their defensive pairings. I get Dach isn’t a defensemen, but still.
He’s a bit of a projection. According to many experts, Dach’s numbers in the WHL didn’t match up with his talent. Well, I know a guy — a guy that I’ve heard him compared to by some — who might be able to help unlock some of that offensive potential. His name is Jonathan Toews. It’s possible (however unlikely) that Dach breaks camp next year with the NHL squad. If he did, he’d probably center a line behind Toews and Dylan Strome. Two solid players to learn from.
So I’ll give this one some time; and for those of you unhappy with the selection, the silver lining is that if you’re right then you probably won’t be seeing more than one more Stan Bowman-led draft anyway.