One of the more controversial players among my rankings, Kirby Dach to many is one of the prize prospects up for grabs in the 2019 NHL draft. I certainly can understand the hype he is receiving — big right-shot centers with his tools are a rare commodity nowadays. But the notion that I am not a fan of the WHL product because I’m “lower” on him compared to others is far from the truth. He is the last of 23 players I have graded as first round talents, but that should come across as a positive. I view him as one of the most talented players in this draft class.
But why do I have him at 23 and not top-10? Well, he became increasingly frustrating to watch as the season went on because of inconsistency and failed to convince me he can be an alpha, having no true game-breaking ability. Is that the kind of player I want to make the centerpiece of my franchise? I’d say no.
|Birthday||January 21, 2001|
Skating: 55 – Puck Skills: 55 – Hockey IQ/Sense: 55 – Physicality: 55
Lets start with Dach’s strengths.
From a tools point-of-view Dach is very unique. He has soft hands to create space for himself and make plays to his teammates. As a playmaker he has great vision, which from a broader scale is due to high hockey-IQ. I do feel, however, his playmaking ability does get slightly overrated, as he doesn’t inherently pull off difficult/high-risk passes at a high rate. He can recognize his teammates with space and make simple tape-to-tape passes with ease, but I never felt he could make something out of nothing for his teammates in terms of passing.
Nevertheless, Dach is top-notch as transporting the puck. There is a big knock on his skating but I feel it is completely overblown. In fact, I want to say skating is one of his better attributes. He has a long stride and the power to drive up ice. He isn’t lightning fast but he doesn’t have to be. When you’re 6’4” you can certainly get away with above average speed Even better is how shifty he is for his size, bringing some east-west elements to the game. He doesn’t overwhelm defenders like a Dylan Cozens to get them to back off, but he can beat them with great puck protection. He has a huge reach which is a massive advantage.
Put that all together and you get a big man who is able to push play up-ice and can be ridiculously hard to slow down when he gets going. Some shifts he makes you laugh as he cycles around the offensive zone.
I do have some worries of him being a perimeter player, as there were many instances when he would be stuck on the outside and failed to find the weak spot in the defense. Some players naturally always attack the middle of the ice. With Dach, I found he always tried to work from outside to in. He wasn’t one to attack the net when leading the rush into the zone, but rather drifted to the outside on many occasions.
Now for what I don’t like about Dach’s game.
Inconsistency plagued his season for me. He hit a big wall at midseason, which included a 7 game stretch where he went pointless. It was quite bizarre considering he had no trouble finding the back of the net to start the season. By seasons end I didn’t feel he ever got better as the year progressed, which is a big red flag for me.
Above you’ll see Dach’s point chart from this past season. It lays out game-by-game when he was scoring. The end of his season didn’t sit right with me, so I went back and watched games from his “hot streak” and came away feeling he never truly dominated those games. The scoring came easy to him in a way, which doesn’t stand out to me as potential game-breaking star forward at the next level. While his cold-spell probably isn’t a proper representation of what he is capable of, neither should his hot streak.
That is in large-part why I was a much bigger fan of Dach at the start of the season. His raw tools can be very impressive, but as you continue to watch it became evident that tools alone isn’t good enough.
Looking back over, Dach has great tools to make plays but doesn’t maximize them enough. He forces himself to the perimeter too much for my liking and hinders the good aspects of his game. Can he be the guy I trust to take it upon himself and make a big play in a key situation?
At the end of the day, I see a lengthy centerman who can flash high-end skill, but can’t do it consistently because none of his tools are truly elite. Long-term I think you’ll be getting a high-scoring second-line center who can play on a number one powerplay unit. But if you’re expecting a superstar out of him, I think you’ll be disappointed.
Physicality wise Dach is probably ready for the NHL. But logically he’d be better suited to return to the WHL. There he can make improvements in his consistency and be better prepared for the big leagues. If he can add an extra step to his skating that would go along way in his development as well, although, it wouldn’t be my number one priority. The Saskatoon Blades are one of the WHL’s better teams, so he might even get a chance to leave his mark in the postseason.
If all goes well he could earn a long look at an NHL roster spot by the 2020-21 season. Unfortunately, he won’t be eligible to play in the AHL as a January 2001 birthday. It’s a real obstacle for players like Dach who will be too good at that point to return to juniors, but not necessarily ready to take on the NHL.