CHICAGO -- Kirby Dach isn't letting the pressure of being the Chicago Blackhawks' highest draft pick since forward Patrick Kane get to him. The 18-year-old center, the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, has his own expectations to meet.
"I think the biggest pressure is going to come from myself," Dach said at Blackhawks development camp Monday. "I know that kind of stature of being the third overall pick. There's going to be some pressure behind it but I kind of just flush it out and the only pressure that's going to come from my performance is going to be [from] myself because I know how good I can be every day, and I need to strive for that excellence."
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said Dach will get every opportunity to make the roster out of training camp. Chicago doesn't have an immediate need for a center on its top two lines, but the native of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, could provide depth up the middle if he makes the team.
Center Dylan Strome had 51 points (17 goals, 34 assists) in 58 games for the Blackhawks last season after being acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 25 and had strong chemistry on a line with Alex DeBrincat and Kane, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NHL Draft. Jonathan Toews, taken No. 3 by the Blackhawks in the 2006 NHL Draft, has been the center on Chicago's top line for most of his 12 NHL seasons and had an NHL career-high 81 points (35 goals, 46 assists) last season.
"Today I got to meet Jonathan Toews and got a little bit tongue-twisted and didn't know what to say to him," Dach said after his first development camp session. "He's a guy I looked up to when I was little. I was 10 years old when he was winning the Stanley Cup, so it's something I want to do here and it's awesome to be around those guys and learn from them."
If Dach (6-foot-4, 197 pounds) doesn't reach the NHL this season, he'll return to Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League, where he had 73 points (25 goals, 48 assists) in 62 games last season, showcasing a strong two-way game and high-end playmaking ability.
"It's hard not to notice his skill level," Bowman said Wednesday. "He's a big guy but he's got really soft hands, he's got that long reach and he's got a quick stick. He's pretty tricky with the puck, he's got the ability to hold it out so that guys can't poke it away, and if they try to get it he can pull it through and he's got quick hands. ... He skates well for a big guy.
"These are all things that we liked about him when we drafted him, but when you get him here and put him up against guys that are a couple years older, he's able to do some special things ... he's a competitive kid, he's focused, but he's enjoying himself and he's got a combination of attributes that we wish everybody had."
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