Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2019 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Kirby Dach of Saskatoon in the Western Hockey League wants to be known as a student of the game.
The 6-foot-3, 199-pound right-shot center enjoys dissecting NHL player statistics and tendencies to become an even better player.
"I kind of look at Ryan Getzlaf and what he was able to do in the WHL with Calgary in building his game playing against older competition, how strong a 200-foot center he was as a playmaker and a pass-first type of guy," Dach said. "I've read where Mark Scheifele is always analyzing statistics of the game and I'm kind of the same way. I've always been fascinated by stats and wanting to learn more."
Dach, No. 2 in NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22 and could be the first Canadian Hockey League player selected. He has 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) in 50 games this season, and his 1.14 points per game average leads Saskatoon.
Saskatoon coach Mitch Love said Dach's willingness to study the history of the game will lead to him finding success in the NHL.
"Kids today don't spend a lot of time on what happened in the past and are more into the now in terms of the game, but Kirby has a real good handle of former players, whether in Saskatoon or those coming through Alberta," Love said. "It's always nice to talk to kids that understand who guys were from the early-to-mid 1990's ... guys I grew up watching."
"[Dach] is a high-end skill player that came out of the gate real strong," said John Williams of NHL Central Scouting. "He's very smart on both sides of the puck and is more of a playmaker but showing he can score."
Dach has proven his versatility on the international stage. He plays center with Saskatoon but won a Hlinka Gretzky Cup championship in August playing right wing for Canada. He had seven points (two goals, five assists) in five games with Peyton Krebs of Lethbridge (WHL) as his center. Krebs is No. 8 in Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters.
"He was asked to play right wing in a best-on-best tournament under a lot of exposure in terms of NHL teams being there, and that wasn't easy," Love said. "Kirby has a high level of hockey IQ. He sees and distributes the game at an elite level for a young 18-year-old. What may be unassuming to people is just how competitive he is in his day-to-day approach in coming to the rink and wanting to get better."
Dach developed his hockey skills in the Fort Saskatchewan minor hockey program, including 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) in 34 games as a bantam player in 2015-16, after which Saskatoon selected him with the No. 2 pick in the 2016 WHL draft.
"I'm trying to be my best at all times whenever I step on the ice because you never know when your last shift might take place ... it could be after 15 shifts or three shifts," Dach said. "You want to make sure every shift is your best."
Dach overcame one of the worst offensive slumps of his junior hockey career when he had one assist and a minus-3 rating in an 11-game stretch from Nov. 28-Dec. 28.
"He stayed the course even though the pucks weren't going in for him," Love said. "But he was doing a lot of other things and still getting opportunities. I would say if opportunities dried up then there's question for concern, but they never did."
Dach had 32 shots on goal during his rough stretch but has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 13 games since Dec. 30.
"Kirby does so many other things that go unnoticed, like his penalty killing, his defensive game and things off the scoresheet that aren't appreciated," Love said. "I think Kirby's beginning to realize that and his offense is starting to come back."
While Dach considers himself more of a pass-first than shoot-first player, he said he's beginning to gain a greater appreciation for how he can succeed as a power forward.
"There are things in my game that power forward players do possess, like creating that time and space for linemates down low," he said. "I enjoy being a part of all situations of the game in the final minute, whether it's stopping or scoring the tying goal. That's something I take a lot of pride in and it's pretty special to be a part of those experiences in your junior hockey career at such a young age."