Is Kirby Dach the riskiest pick in the 2019 NHL Draft?

KELOWNA, BC - DECEMBER 01: Kirby Dach #77 of the Saskatoon Blades warms up against the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place on December 1, 2018 in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
KELOWNA, BC - DECEMBER 01: Kirby Dach #77 of the Saskatoon Blades warms up against the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place on December 1, 2018 in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images) /

Next up in our 2019 NHL Draft prospect profiles is center Kirby Dach, who just wrapped up a solid season with the Saskatoon Blades, but might be a rather risky pick.

It’s time for the next edition in our series of profiles on the top prospects eligible for the Vancouver Canucks to select this year’s upcoming NHL entry draft here in Vancouver. Today, I’ll be discussing Kirby Dach, a talented centre from the Saskatoon Blades who may just be this year’s riskiest draft pick.

Dach is one of the most size-oriented players projected to be taken towards the start of this draft. Hailing from St. Albert, Alberta, he stands 6’4” and weighs approximately 198 lbs. In the past, Dach has been able to play his size to his advantage. One of his biggest strengths is his ability to force the puck to the net, an ability that delivered him 73 points in 62 games with the Blades in 2018-19.

Funnily enough, it is not his goal-scoring ability that has led to Dach’s top-talent status, but his playmaking. With 48 of his 73 points assists, Dach has always shown a propensity for setting up his teammates rather than scoring himself. He can use his size to get the puck into the offensive zone, and once he passes it off, will often put his body to use screening opposing goaltenders or moving defenders out of position. At its best, Dach’s play has drawn comparisons to Ryan Getzlaf.

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However, Dach has a number of flaws to his game that have the potential to lead his career astray. For starters, Dach has been known for significant periods of inconsistency throughout his time in junior. The young centre may be priority viewing one night and invisible the next.

He does have a knack for showing up in big moments, scoring in game sevens and overtimes, the goals that are ultimately the only ones that matter. However, inconsistency can crush a team’s playoff hopes, so investing a top-10 pick in a player who tends to come and go can be dangerous.

The even greater knock against Dach is his skating. His ability on skates can be described as no better than average. Dach takes very powerful strides, contributing to his ability to overpower opponents, but like many larger players, speed is an issue. He is frequently unable to reach loose pucks before opposing defencemen, stifling open-ice scoring opportunities. Another common by-product of size is a lack of agility, likely preventing him from ever replicating the moves of a smaller player.

However, issues with size and speed can be overcome through hard work and a strong hockey sense. While Dach certainly goes the extra mile to improve his game, his hockey IQ is more questionable. Dach will make the correct play seven of ten times but can have lapses in judgement on the other three. These may take the form of an errant pass or poor positioning, or sometimes defensive miscues that can cost his team a goal.

Should Dach pan out perfectly, he will be able to use his size and skill to become one of the NHL’s elite power forwards. However, minus the blazing speed, his game is eerily similar to that of Jake Virtanen, who tore up the WHL before failing to transition his skillset to the NHL level. While Virtanen has undoubtedly improved since his rookie season, he now toils away on the Canucks’ third line and has been labelled by many as a bust. Dach could very well suffer the same fate.

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Dach’s NHL career can be equally as successful as it can be disastrous, making him a gamble for any rebuilding team. He fits the mould of other clubs such as the Minnesota Wild or Anaheim Ducks, but not necessarily the Canucks. In all likelihood, Dach will have been picked by the Canucks’ turn, but if he is still on the board, GM Benning should be wary.