Kirby Dach Feeling the Pressure, Connor Bedard is a Freak, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Yesterday was a tough one in the Chicago sports media world. After a battle with cancer, long-time ESPN Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson passed away at just 44-years-old. While I did not know Jeff, the stories shared about him last night paint a picture of a guy who was genuine, hard-working, and good to everyone he crossed paths with.

•   You can learn so much more about Jeff from the people who knew him best here:

•   One of the most tragic parts of this is that Jeff’s son, Parker, has lost both of his parents to cancer in a matter of a few years. If you feel inclined, the Go Fund Me page for Parker is here:

•   A reminder to tell those close to you in life that you love them.

•   Onto Blackhawks news.

•   Yesterday in the World Junior Championships, Team USA was forced to forfeit their game against the Swiss team due to COVID cases on the U.S. team. A game the U.S. was heavily favored now goes down as a 1-0 loss. The U.S. team is now 1-1-0 and face the possibility of their game against Sweden today being forfeited as well.

•   Team USA is defending their 2021 Gold Medal at the tournament, with three Blackhawks prospects on the roster. Returning to the U.S. team from last year’s Gold Medal winners is forward Landon Slaggert. A 2020 third-round pick by Chicago, Slaggert’s international career and his time with Notre Dame has quickly made him one of the more intriguing prospects in the Blackhawks farm system. More on Slaggert and his family here from The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler:

•   Following the U.S. forfeit yesterday, today we learn that Czechia will be forfeiting their game today against Finland due to COVID quarantine.

•   Another lost game for Blackhawks prospects at this year’s World Junior Championships as Michael Krutil, who has missed the previous two games for Czechia due to a suspension from last year’s tournament, will have to wait longer for another opportunity to play.

•   While the U.S. game was canceled yesterday, Canada and Austria played their game and it was a history-making beatdown for Canada. In an 11-2 win over the Austrian side, 16-year-old phenom Connor Bedard showed everyone why he is the top prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft class.

•   After 2021 first-overall pick Owen Power scored a hat-trick in Canada’s first game of the tournament, the probable future 2023 first-overall pick did him one better…

•   Four goals in one game, at 16-years-old, for Team Canada. What were you doing at 16?

•   How great was last night for Bedard? So great that Bedard, while one-upping Owen Power, also one-upped the ‘Great One’ is the process.

•   Sure, he’ll probably not touch Gretzky’s numbers, but he might be able to replicate that of another Connor in the NHL.

•   But this isn’t going to get to Bedard’s head anytime soon.

•   Yet.

•   In the NHL world for Chicago, speaking after yesterday’s practice, Kirby Dach talked about his past calendar year after breaking his wrist at last year’s World Junior Championships tournament. It has been a frustrating one for the 20-year-old former third-overall pick.

•   Dach is working through some poor luck this season, but it’s weighing on him that he is not yet producing like the player he believes he can be.

•   The Blackhawks drafted Dach to be the answer to Jonathan Toews when Toews can no longer play the top centerman role for Chicago. We’ve reached that point with Toews, but Dach is far from being the answer.

•   There’s a glaring hole in the organization behind Toews. I think Dach’s future is on the wing. So what do the Blackhawks do moving forward at center? Maybe Shane Wright? That would require this season to turn back in the opposite direction. Maybe Connor Bedard? Well, that would require another year of terrible hockey. Yeesh.

•   One center coming back to the lineup, hopefully soon, is Tyler Johnson. After having neck surgery earlier this month, Johnson was back on the ice for Chicago yesterday.

•   It’s good news for him, for the Blackhawks, and for the ADR neck surgery procedure he had. He and Jack Eichel are the first two NHL players to have the surgery and so far, both are on similar paths back to playing much faster than others who have required neck surgery in the past.

•   Also coming back to the Blackhawks soon is forward Jujhar Khaira.

•   Khaira has been skating over the past few days after coming back from a concussion earlier this month. Outside of Marc-André Fleury landing in COVID protocol, knock on wood, the Blackhawks are getting close to having their full lineup back.

•   But getting back to playing games looks more complicated.

•   Chicago’s next game is on January 1, 2022 against Nashville, for now. Today, in COVID news, the league has changed their policies regarding COVID positive cases and isolation periods.

•   That his could potentially lead to fewer games being postponed, or teams being able to play through positive cases with the use of Taxi Squad players.

•   We shall see how these measures, which have also been changed in the NFL and NBA, play-out for the NHL.

•   Starting and ending today with two legends lost yesterday. The NFL world lost Jeff Dickerson and also John Madden. At 85-years-old, Madden passed away unexpectedly and leaves behind a legacy in football that may never be matched by someone not on the field.

•   From his coaching legacy, to his legendary broadcasting career, to ‘Madden Football,’ there may never be another person like him around the NFL.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all enjoy your Wednesday.

written by

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.

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