The NHL put its 2019-20 season on pause March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but remains hopeful to award the Stanley Cup at some point. Although it's unclear if or when it could return, NBC Sports Chicago will recap the season of each Blackhawks player to date in our "season in review" series. Next up is Kirby Dach.
There were plenty of storylines to follow going into training camp, perhaps none more intriguing than whether Kirby Dach would be ready to secure a full-time NHL roster spot out of the gates. Unfortunately for both Dach and the Blackhawks, the No. 3 overall pick suffered a concussion at the 2019 Traverse City Prospect Tournament and missed all of preseason.
But that didn't stop him from making a strong impression when his opportunity finally came on Oct. 20. And the Blackhawks weren't afraid to throw him into the fire either, matching his line against Alex Ovechkin's all game. Welcome to the pros, kid.
The very next game, Dach was credited with his first career NHL goal after the puck bounced off his knee and in. In his third game, he recorded his first career NHL assist. Things were off to a solid start.
The biggest challenge early on for Dach was making the most of ice time. He was only getting about 9-11 minutes a night and he's someone that's accustomed to playing in all situations.
"I'm pretty used to playing a lot of minutes in a game and obviously that transition for a little bit to not play as many minutes was tough," Dach said. "I had to learn that you go through those stretches where you're not going to play a ton, especially as a young guy. You have to learn how to deal with that and play your best minutes when you're out there."
Dach's hottest stretch came in November when he recorded seven points (four goals, three assists) during a career-long five-game point streak. But after that, his production cooled off significantly.
Dach registered only one point over the next 28 games and went through goal droughts of 16 and 13 games, respectively. But the encouraging part was, his confidence never wavered. He was still generating chances and playing his game, the points simply weren't coming.
After snapping that drought on Jan. 19, Dach compiled 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) and had a plus-3 rating while averaging 15:51 of ice time over the next 21 games. The Blackhawks gave him more responsibility as the season went on and he handled it well.
There will certainly be growing pains as Dach progresses as a pro, but the upside is evident, and he never once looked out of place despite his ups and downs. And that's why Dach's rookie campaign with the Blackhawks should be considered a success.
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