After an up-and-down regular season, Blackhawks rookie center Kirby Dach used this year's rare postseason opportunity for the Hawks to elevate his game mid-year and finish strong, setting the table for an even better sophomore showing.
Dach,19, had 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) while finding his game and role with the Hawks in his first regular season with the team, appearing in 64 games.
Ahead of the postseason tournament, in which the Blackhawks were able to sneak in as a No. 12 seed, Dach drew a lot of attention for how he looked and played at the team's summer camp.
By all indications, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft used the time during the NHL pause to put on muscle and find ways to enhance his game, as well as get some rest.
Dach continued to stand out in both the Hawks' qualifying round series against the Oilers and the first round playoff series vs. the Golden Knights, the latter of which saw him score his first NHL playoff goal in Game 2's 4-3 overtime loss. Dach finished the postseason with six points (one goal, five assists).
Everything about the 6'4 forward appeared to improve from regular season to postseason: movement, awareness, playmaking, ability to come out with the puck in board battles... Despite all that, he sees a lot of room for improvement for his second season with the Hawks.
"You can never be fast enough, your shot can never be hard enough. I’ll have some people look over my game and look at areas (where) I can improve at offensively and defensively and where I can be better with and without the puck," Dach said in his final Zoom call with Blackhawks media for the year on Tuesday.
"I’ll get the same routine I had going during COVID, still work on my body and move and make sure my body’s always flowing and in a good state where I’m not too rigid or gaining too much muscle. I want to add weight the right way and not add it on right away and have injury problems my whole career. This offseason, change a couple of things. Hopefully the progression keeps going upward."
The only area he noticeably needs to improve in is establishing more of a shoot-first mentality.
"I think I just have to find more confidence in my shot, work on that over the break, find ways to put more pucks on net," Dach said. "As a pass-first guy, if you can develop a shooting mentality, it’ll open up passing lanes for you, make it easier on your life. That’s still something I have to find a way to get better at. There are other areas of my game I’d like to improve upon (too)."