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FEATURE: Dach's NHL Adjustment Guided by Veteran Presence

Kirby Dach's adjustment to NHL life eased by guidance of teammate-turned-roommate Brent Seabrook

by Chris Kuc @ChrisKuc /

LOS ANGELES - Brent Seabrook's home in Chicago is a maelstrom of activity thanks to the presence of the Blackhawks defenseman, his wife, Dayna, their three young children and three dogs.

Oh, and one No. 3 overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. 

Kirby Dach has been living in Seabrook's basement while his fate with the team this season hung in the balance. When the Blackhawks are on the road, Dach often holes up with his roommate in the team hotel, Alex Nylander, and the two watch a lot of Netflix.

Currently, the rookies are powering their way through episodes of the British drama series "Peaky Blinders" when they aren't discussing the rigors of being young players trying to prove themselves in the NHL.

With Wednesday's announcement that Dach will remain with the Blackhawks this season instead of being sent back to his junior team in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the 18-year-old's living arrangements - in Chicago and on the road - won't be changing anytime soon.

"It's thrilling and it's exciting for me," Dach said. "It's something I've dreamed of for my whole life. I came into camp wanting to make this team and pushed to make it and to finally get that recognition from (coach Jeremy Colliton) and the management group is awesome."

Dach found out the plan to keep him all season during a lunch with Colliton and Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman prior to the Blackhawks game against the Predators on Tuesday night in Nashville.

"I looked at it as it could go two different ways," Dach said of the meeting. "I was hoping it was a positive one so that was exciting."

Video: Kirby Dach on staying with Blackhawks

It was positive thanks to Dach's play in six games with the Blackhawks during which he has a goal and an assist. Most important is that Dach showed he belongs and there is room for greater improvement.

"He's played well and he's shown he can help us and he's only going to get better," Colliton said. "The player he is now, there's likely going to be huge improvement as the year goes on. The player (he is) in February I'm sure will be an impact player for us and that's exciting.

"He makes a lot of plays," Colliton added. "He's a very good skater (and) the puck seems to find him. For him to have an impact every shift it's just the work away from the puck and getting to top speed. He's a great skater so use his skating to pressure pucks on the forecheck and strip guys on the backcheck and get into battles. Because often when he gets to the battle on time he comes out with the puck and then his skill can show through. When he's done that he's been extremely effective and created for himself and his linemates."

The Blackhawks made the decision sooner rather than later - they could have waited until the center played nine games before deciding whether to send him back to juniors or burn a year of his entry-level contract - and that should ease some of the pressure on Dach.

"It's a little more comforting knowing that I'm going to be here year-round instead of that question mark that was kind of always surrounding me," Dach said. "At the same time. I've been comfortable for awhile now. I've got a good living situation and I'm happy where I'm at in life."

Back to that living situation. At some point, Dach will likely get his own place but for now plans to remain a guest of the Seabrooks.

"We stuck him down in the basement and turned the power off down there," Seabrook said with a smile. "I gave the kids a few rules and I gave Kirby a few rules. For one, he has to do his own laundry."

Dach spends much of his time interacting with the family, including Seabrook's 6-year-old son, Carter, and daughters Kenzie, 4, and Dylan, 2.

"I grew up in a busy household - I had two siblings and two dogs so it's nothing new for me," Dach said. "I enjoy the busyness of the house."

"Busyness" is one way to put it. Seabrook described it as "chaos."

"A big thing for us was having Kirby come over and see what our life is like," Seabrook, 34, said. "I'm not a single guy with nothing going on. I've got three kids, I've got three dogs, it's noisy, it's loud, it's chaotic at times and we wanted him to see that first-hand before he made the decision to stay with us. It took a lot of courage for him to come ask. My wife was open to it and he's been great."

Well, great for the most part.

"He eats way too much," Seabrook said. "I'm going to have to do a daily stipend for him or like a swear jar but for food. The first night he came over he had three plates of food and me and my wife looked at each other like, 'I guess we won't have leftovers for tomorrow.'"

That last part is probably music to the ears of Colliton and Bowman, who would like to see a bigger, stronger Dach on the ice. At 6-feet-4, Dach weighs 194 pounds and could use some filling out.

"He's still pretty light and we need him to continue to train and we need him to get his get his strength work in," Colliton said, adding that Dach likely won't be in the lineup every game. "During the year, it's difficult when you play so many games so we'll probably manage his rest and I would be shocked if he played them all this year."

Dach said his biggest area in need of improvement is his strength.

"The biggest thing I've learned from playing against bigger and stronger guys is it's not against boys anymore," he said. "You're playing against men every night and they aren't taking a shift off. They want to make sure an 18-year-old isn't beating them to the net or scoring on them. They're trying to make it difficult for me to score so I have to make it difficult for them to defend."

Since Dach doesn't have a car in Chicago, he has been riding to and from practices and games with Seabrook. When in the car and at home, the two talk plenty about life and hockey.

"(Seabrook) has been in the league for so long and knows how to handle himself and he's a pro every day," Dach said.

Added Colliton: "Everyone knows 'Seabs' is a tremendous leader and great teammate. He takes care of everyone so it's pretty good for Kirby to be around that. (Seabrook) has won some Cups and played at a high level and has an Olympic gold. It's a big benefit for (Dach) and his development."

Another benefit is Seabrook gets a break from one of the perils of being the fatherhood of young children.

"Kirby has turned into the new jungle gym for my kids," Seabrook said. "It relieves me of a little of that."

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