During a trying season for the Blackhawks that will most likely result in them missing the postseason for a third consecutive year, rookie Dominik Kubalik has emerged as a bright spot that can help direct the franchise to an irradiant future.
The winger's 29 goals lead all NHL rookies. He's logged most of his ice time skating on Toews' left wing this season.
Kubalik, 24, has outshined another great year from Patrick Kane, a second-straight impressive season from captain Jonathan Toews and a goalie tandem that was the envy of the entire league to be the best story of the 2019-20 season.
On Thursday, the Czech player added to an already fabulous first NHL campaign by collecting his first NHL hat trick in the Hawks' 5-2 victory over the Lightning. He has 18 goals in his last 22 games.
"It feels amazing," Kubalik said of netting his first hat trick. "It is something special. First time [after] I had my first two goals I missed [a shot]. So I had it in my head, I'm not going to lie. So I was trying to do it as quick as possible and really happy it happened."
So what's clicking for him?
“I have no idea. That's a good question, I’d like to know too," he said after Thursday's game. "Just trying to do the same thing: be around the net because lots of goals are just laying there. So that's where I'm trying to be and I've been lucky, so I'm really happy for that."
Kubalik — who came to Chicago via a trade with the Los Angeles Kings for a fifth round pick — also breathed life into the Hawks' cold, dead power play after being added to the top unit. The forward scored his second goal on a power play in Tampa and also scored on the man advantage in Sunday's 2-1 loss at Dallas.
The Blackhawks have power-play goals in four straight games, including three in Tuesday's 6-5 loss at St. Louis.
Following the win over the Lightning, Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said he wished he had put Kubalik on the power play's top unit earlier in the season.
"Great kid," Colliton said of Kubalik. "He's playing with a lot of confidence. Confidence is a big part of his game. He's a guy who can be a little up and down depending on how he feels about his own game. But I think recently he's been able to smooth that out and find an extra level of consistency. And that's great, it's great for us, great for him."
The Hawks will need to focus on locking him up this offseason, when he'll become a restricted free agent. He's due for a significantly higher payday than his current $925,000 cap hit with a $1,775,000 average annual value.
As uncertain as the Blackhawks' future is currently as to how much rebuilding will be done moving forward, one thing's for sure: they got a goal-scorer in Kubalik.