Kirby Dach, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Age on Draft Day: 18.42 Years Old
Height/Weight: 6’4, 198 pounds
2018-2019 Stats: 65 GP, 25 G, 48 A, 40 PIM
NHL Central Scouting (North America only): 3rd
Bob McKenzie: 4th
ISS Hockey: 7th
Craig Button: 15th
What stands out immediately when watching the Saskatoon Blades is Kirby Dach’s size. Visually speaking, he sticks out like a sore thumb in the WHL, as he is simply bigger than everyone else. For comparative purposes, Rangers’ center Brett Howden is big by NHL standards 6’3 and 195 pounds; Dach is 6’4 and 197 pounds as a 17-year-old.
More importantly, though, is that Dach is impressive in the ways he utilizes that size. He lack’s Kaapo Kakko’s elite balance right now, but he is similarly capable of carrying the puck while protecting it with his body. He is proficient at carrying down the wing and behind the net, and when determined he drives towards the net with power.
(Watch for #77, or in a few cases #17, in the following clips)
Dach also makes use of his wingspan, using that long reach to disrupt puck carriers and forcing them into scrums where he then has the size advantage. Defensively, he creates a number of turnovers.
Remarkable, too, is the surprising finesse with which Dach is able to play. He is a great puckhandler who can make plays tight to his body. He beats defenders laterally and can force goaltenders to leave their edges with creative dekes.
Dach plays the Nicklas Backstrom role on Saskatoon’s power play, standing along the right half-wall and quarterbacking from there. He weights his passes perfectly and is very good at not only finding open passing lanes towards the slot, but also putting the pass in a spot where his teammate can put in on net without adjustment or latency.
Dach’s skating mid-stride is fine — good, not great — but from a standstill he’s a bit like an old car; sometimes it takes a few turns of the key for the engine to finally start running. I’m the furthest thing from a skating coach, but Dach is strong and fit, and I’d like to think that, in theory, there’s plenty of room for improvement there.
Though, as mentioned, he does use his size well in certain ways, he needs to become more consistent in terms of aggression. Dach is a skilled, cerebral player, and that should always be his main skillset. But he presents tremendous potential to be a physical threat as well. Can he become an immovable tree stump in low slot when the situation calls for it? Can he push players off the puck in board battles more consistently?
With apologies for spoiling future content, one of the interesting sub-plots for the 2019 NHL draft is Dach versus fellow WHL center Dylan Cozens. They both share similarities in playing style (though stark differences in other ways) and have relatively equal statistical profiles. I’ve spoken to some WHL people who absolutely insist that Dach is the better prospect, while others in the scouting community prefer Cozens.
I give Dach the slight edge because I think he has more individual gamebreaking ability. He’s still looking to develop consistency, but he’s shown some shifts where he was absolutely the one who unequivocally made offense happen, trouncing multiple defenders in the process.
Dach is almost certainly not a franchise player in the making, but there is very high potential for him as a key piece to rebuilding a team. He is a likely top-six, playmaking center who provides strong defensive ability, plays on the top penalty kill unit, and slots into a leadership role. I’m not sure that he’s going to be much of a goal scorer, but in almost every other aspect of the game he is high-end.
This is a wide-open draft, and Dach could go anywhere between 3rd overall or outside the top-10. But it’s hard to imagine that too many teams will want to pass on a 6’4, right-handed, two-way center.
What Others Have Said
“The most intriguing part for me, and working with Kirby, is just how competitive he is. He’s a bit of a cerebral player in terms of the way he plays the game, but he’s a student of the game, he’s got a high hockey IQ. His skill-set, in terms of his puck skills, his stick and everything, is tremendous.”
- Saskatoon Blades Head Coach Mitch Love, via The Star Phoenix
“When Dach is on his game, as we saw the Hlinka Memorial Cup to start this season, there aren’t many other players in this draft class that can keep up.”
- Ryan Biech, NextGen Hockey