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FEATURE: A Glimpse Inside the Hockey Mind of Kirby Dach

As the No. 3 overall pick watched his teammates take on St. Louis on Monday, Kirby Dach opens up about his unique view on the game of hockey

by Chris Kuc @ChrisKuc /

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - It's a funny thing to watch the top two Blackhawks prospects try to handle a mess of soggy popcorn after their box of it tumbled into a water-filled cooler outside the team's dressing room.

Yet there were Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist doing just that during Game 3 of the Traverse City Prospect Tournament on Monday in an arena along the northern tip of Lake Michigan. The solution, for one, at least, was to salvage as much of the concession staple of healthy scratches everywhere by plucking out what remained of the dry kernels and eating them while letting the rest coagulate around the bottles floating on top.

You forgive the two for the food faux pas as neither is used to standing on the sidelines while their teammates are battling on the ice. But with Blackhawks training camp looming, the decision to rest the forward and defenseman, respectively, was made

Fortunately for, it presented an opportunity to stand alongside Dach and pick the brain of the No. 3 overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Here now is an edited conversation between Dach, who was dressed in a light gray sport coat over dark pants, crisp white shirt and black tie, and a broken-down Senior Writer wearing a slightly less-expensive suit:

Kuc: When was the last time you were a healthy scratch?

Dach: I don't think I've ever been a healthy scratch. Most of the time when I'm out it's because I'm hurt or something like that.

So what are you looking for when you're watching like this?

I'm just kind of watching the game and seeing what guys can do, what little tricks they do along the wall. I watch how certain guys read certain plays and what I would do if I was in the same situation. It's kind of just analyzing the game. I'm always trying to figure out what is the best option for the guy with the puck.

At the draft in Vancouver, you mentioned that you have the ability to see the game unlike other players. Can you expand on that?

I don't know what it is, but I can almost place players in different spots around the ice and kind of dictate where they're going to go with my feet and my hands. It kind of opens up plays for me from there. I kind of want to put pucks into places where I want my teammates to be instead of where they are to put them in a better position - as well as myself. I think I see the game a lot different than most players do.

Where does that ability come from?

Ever since a young age I've always been kind of able to pick up on things a little easier than most kids and create plays from nothing and always been able to find that soft ice and see things just a little bit differently.

So does that make it hard to stand here and watch?

Oh, yeah. You always want to be on the ice trying to help your team as much as you can. Sometimes you have to take a day off and kind of regroup and get ready for the next one.

So what are you seeing from this game (a 4-2 loss to the Blues)?

I think we're moving the puck well. The last game against Toronto (on Saturday) we kind of got stuck in our zone and weren't really moving the puck up ice as quick as we should of. Today, we're moving the puck up and supporting well in the neutral zone which helps.

Any advantages of watching as a scratch?

You can see different things where guys are looking to make plays and where they're kind of being cut off and just how fast they have to react.

Do you watch much hockey when you aren't at the rink?

I'm always kind of involved with hockey. When I'm not playing I'm always kind of watching it or thinking about it in some sort of way. It's just kind of the way my brain is wired. I obviously love the game and want to try and be the best player I can be at all times. To be able to do that you have to be able to be a student of the game and be able to learn and take in information as much as you can. Watching hockey is a great way to do that.

Which teams did you follow before you were drafted by the Blackhawks?

I just kind of watch whatever game is on TV. Me and a close teammate of mine last year in Saskatoon, Max Gerlach, would always kind of watch the games together. Even if we weren't in the same house we'd be texting each other, 'Did you see this, did you see that?' It was good because you have somebody to watch the game with and talk about it. It was good to have that relationship. He's one of my closest buddies now and probably will be for the rest of my life. It's the relationships you make in hockey, you make your best friends there. You spend so much time with them and get to know them. I just do my best to analyze the game and do what I would see during the game. What I see isn't always right so it's always good to have a second opinion.

Your game draws comparisons to Ryan Getzlaf. Fair?

I can see where people see a resemblance to Getzlaf because I'm a big, rangy centerman who is a playmaker first. But I'm trying to more so model my game after a guy like Ryan Johansen or Mark Scheifele - a little bit more skilled and a dual threat as well. What I've been trying to work on in the past couple of years is goal-scoring and my shot because you're good at finding plays and making those passes all of the time you have that secondary option to shoot and try to throw guys off once in a while. That has helped me a lot in my game.

Did you expect teams to ramp up their physicality against you the way they have during this tournament?

Yeah, I mean, especially with the status of being the third-overall pick guys are going to gun for you and they don't really care who you are. I know I'm going to get that physical treatment from a lot of teams and I have to embrace that and do my best to not get frustrated and just kind of fight back but play within the whistles.

It appeared that you did get a little flustered against the Maple Leafs. What happened there?

I wasn't getting the bounces I was the game before (against Detroit on Friday) and then you're just kind of getting more and more frustrated and it just builds up over time. You have to find ways to kind of block that stuff out and just play your game.

That's part of the learning process, too, right?

That's part of maturing and growing older. I have guys in Chicago in (Jonathan) Toews and (Patrick) Kane and (Brent) Seabrook and (Duncan) Keith who have been in the NHL for a long time now and for me to learn from those guys right away is going to be huge for my development.

Have you been seeking their advice during workouts and skates this summer?

Oh, yeah. With skating and training with them during the summer you just kind of talk about where you see yourself and what they see and what I need to improve upon to be at that level. It was good to spend some of the summer down here and be in the gym and skating with a couple of the older guys.

Anyone in particular who has taken you under their wing?

I think it's just kind of coming from everybody but the guys I've been talking to the most are Seabrook and Toews. Those guys have helped me out the most so far. They know quite a bit about the game.

Training camp starts later this week. What's your mindset going in?

Something you kind of dream about as a kid is being playing in the NHL. I'm pretty excited about the opportunity to get into camp and be out there with the big boys and see how I match up. There's obviously a little bit of nerves coming with it, too. I have to do my best to prove that I belong there and should stay there all season. That part of it is a little bit nerve-wracking but it's also exciting that I get the opportunity to do that because not many people right out of their draft year get to have that opportunity of playing right away.

I'm just going to go there and learn everything I can and be a sponge and take in the whole experience. At the same time, I have to take advantage of the opportunities I'm getting and try to be the best player I can be always.

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