We are tantalizingly close to real Chicago Blackhawks hockey. As training camp and the preseason approaches, the official drop of the puck on the Blackhawks 2021-22 regular season comes on October 13th. One of the key players to watch this season is 20-year-old Kirby Dach.
Following two shortened seasons, the first two of his NHL career, Dach is heading into the first real training camp of his professional career since being the third-overall selection by Chicago in the 2019 NHL Draft. I still consider him one of the Blackhawks’ prospects, and if you read or watched the 2021 Blackhawks Prospect Pyramid, you would know that I have high expectations for Dach and consider him their top prospect.
Last season was supposed to be the coming out party for Dach following a rookie campaign that saw him skate in 64 games and record eight goals and 23 points. He was heading to the World Junior Championships with Canada and was named Captain of the team ahead of the tournament. In an exhibition game against Russia prior to the tournament, Dach took an awkward hit from future Blackhawks draft pick Ilya Safonov and broke his wrist. Dach had to have surgery and missed two-thirds of the 2020-21 season.
Following the surgery and his rehab/recovery, Dach returned to the team for the final stretch of the season and skated in 18 games, tallying two goals and ten points. But he wasn’t 100% and played until the club was out of Stanley Cup Playoff contention before being shutdown to avoid doing any damage to the repaired wrist.
Now he’s had a full offseason, is back to 100% health, and is ready to get back on the ice with the Blackhawks, a team that will have higher than anticipated expectations for the 2021-22 season. Dach spoke to the media today as he and his brother Colton, a 2021 second-round pick by the Blackhawks, helped paint the ice at the United Center.
— Josh Frydman (@Josh_Frydman) September 9, 2021
Dach’s expectations for the club are to compete for a playoff spot and that feels right for how the team looks on paper following the moves made this offseason. With the additions of Marc-André Fleury, Seth Jones, Tyler Johnson, and Jake McCabe, to name a few, the Blackhawks look poised to be on the cusp of being a playoff contender is a jam-packed Central Division. For Dach, the addition of the veteran players with playoff experience helps a younger, less-experienced Blackhawks squad outside of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Not only will this be Dach’s first full training camp since coming to the Blackhawks, this will also be his third season that has been impacted by COVID-19. One of the biggest challenges for players since restrictions were put in place during the bubble postseason and during this past regular season and playoffs, is getting to be around “the boys” as they say. Not being able to hang out around the cities you travel to or even in your own homes or hotel rooms has been an expressed challenge to players over the past nearly two years. But with COVID restrictions in the league and around the United Center being tight for this unvaccinated and more relaxed for those that are vaccinated, hopefully the players will be able to experience more of a normal hockey life.
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) September 9, 2021
Who will play more games together in a Blackhawks sweater in their careers? The Jones brothers or the Dach brothers? That’s a long-term bet I’d love to make.