By JD Lagrange – The NHL Draft in Montreal… the Habs selecting first overall… the fans back in the building… It was the perfect set-up for Kent Hughes and the new Canadiens’ management group to make a splash. And a statement they made! As the vast majority of fans and media were anticipating them to pick Shane Wright, Hughes showed some immense nerves by selecting Juraj Slafkovsky with the first overall pick.
And that was just the beginning. As the crowd was still in shock, Gary Bettman went to the podium to announce a trade. Yes, it involved the home team! First, the Canadiens sent defenseman Alexander Romanov and the 98th pick (4th rd) to the New York Islanders in exchange for the Isles’ 13th overall pick. Hughes then flipped that pick, to the Chicago Blackhawks, along with the 66th pick (3rd rd) and received Kirby Dach in return.
In doing all of that, Hughes managed to hang on to his 26th overall pick in the first round, with which he selected Slafkovsky’s countryman Filip Mesar, a talented forward. Shock and awe? Mission accomplished!
What’s up, Dach
Ever since the trade, we’ve read comments from already disgruntled fans comparing Kirby Dach to Jesperi Kotkaniemi. We’re heard and read people calling a 21 year-old, who won’t turn 22 until January, a bust. Those are the same people who were claiming that the Canadiens had to draft Shane Wright, mind you.
So who is Kirby Dach, exactly?
|Position:||Center||Place of birth:||Fort Saskatchewan, AB|
|Shoots:||Right||Date of birth:||January 21, 2001 (21)|
|Height:||6’4″||Draft:||2019 CHI, 1st rd, 3rd pk (3rd overall)|
Dach was the third player taken in the 2019 draft. He was in the NHL as an 18-year-old and he has shown increasing flashes of why he was so highly regarded as he moves into his early 20s. He is big, he skates well and he is strong on the puck, a trait that should get even better as he matures. Dach is an excellent passer but he must learn to take more shots in order to keep opponents from cheating for the pass in coverage. Unfortunately, he has been plagued by injuries early on, including a broken wrist.
Here are some of the scouting reports on Dach prior to or in his draft year:
- The giant-sized Albertan is a two-way center with exceptional hockey sense. Dach is also a highly-skilled playmaker who sees openings that most players don’t. Despite his large stature, he is surprisingly shifty and equipped with fine hands and creativity. (EP 2019)
- The capability to bury the shoulder, drive to the net, and find twine with two or three defenders dangling off of him is there, EPrinkside.com 2019
- He’s a very coordinated kid with his wrists and can make unique dangles given his length and skill-level., Hockeyprospect.com 2019
- Displaying incredible vision and passing ability, he works well in tight around the net with very soft hands, Future Considerations 2019
- Dach is a general on the ice. He has the ability to slow the game down and take it over, McKeen’s Hockey 2019
- great combination of size, strength and puck skills … ‘offence first’ mentality … soft hands… good puck pursuit … quick stick, ISS Hockey 2017
According to Kent Hughes in his post first round meeting with the press, the Canadiens acquired Dach because of his upside, his size up the middle, his skating abilities and his still untapped potential. He consulted with his player development group and they feel like the Habs will be able to surround him and help him turn into the player that everyone saw in him in his draft year.
Why did the Blackhawks trade him, asked many people? This is a very difficult question to answer. To be honest, does anyone know what the Hawks are doing? They also traded 24 year-old, two times 40-goals’ scorer Alex DeBrincat… while they still have aging Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on their roster. And they’re not trading those kids for talent to give the vets one last kick at the can like Pittsburgh is doing. They’re trading them for draft picks!
If Dach can shake the injury bug, he could be a very, very good pick up for the Canadiens. At worse, he is a faster version of Kotkaniemi whom they have lost to an offer-sheet and turns into a third line center. At best, they have an excellent second line center with size. They traded a good young defenseman in Alexander Romanov in order to make his acquisition. Considering the depth that the Canadiens have in their prospect pool on left defense and the lack of depth up the middle, it’s a risk well worth taking.