The Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game offers hockey fans and talent evaluators alike the opportunity to set their sights on the next wave of the game’s budding talents all competing as part of one exhilarating best-on-best showcase.
And there may be no greater recent example of how the annual classic acts as a springboard in moving the best up-and-comers to hockey’s highest level than Saskatoon Blades graduate and budding Chicago Blackhawks star Kirby Dach.
Selected third overall in the 2019 NHL Draft – and the first Canadian Hockey League talent to hear his name called – Dach joined the historic NHL franchise where today he is already lacing up the skates for the club at 18 years old. This season, Dach has appeared in 28 games with the Blackhawks, a stretch which has seen him notch 10 points including his first NHL goal in his second-ever appearance, all while earning more than 12 minutes of ice time a night.
A highly touted prospect entering the 2019 NHL Draft, Dach saw the 2019 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game as his opportunity to impress an eager scouting community that later rewarded him in selected him on draft day, the next step in helping his boyhood dream become a reality.
“I took (the 2019 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game) as a stepping stone toward the draft. I had it marked in my calendar where I wanted to get (in the game) and be a player,” Dach told the Canadian Hockey League. “It helps you get in the right direction. If you’re there, you’re touted as a top prospect and you have that confidence behind you just knowing that you’re doing everything right but that there is still work ahead.
“I had a good game and had lots of fun. It was a chance for me to reset and get ready for the rest of the season and get toward the playoffs. It really helped me in the long run to prepare.”
Serving as captain of Team Orr, Dach had a front row seat as his side mounted an impressive comeback that saw the squad rally with four unanswered markers in the third period including three goals in 72 seconds late in the final frame en route to a 5-4 victory.
“It was a lot of fun. The game wasn’t really going the way we thought it would but at the end we capped a huge comeback,” recalled Dach, who finished the night with one assist and a plus-two rating. “I had a lot of fun with that group of guys. Any time you get to play with a group of players of that caliber, those prospects, it’s good hockey and it’s a lot of fun to watch.”
As the series shifts to Hamilton, fans in Steeltown should expect to see a similar hard-battled, highlight reel affair when the puck drops January 16 for the 25th edition of the yearly favourite.
“With it being in Hamilton this year, the fans there I’ve heard are tremendous and they are going to have a lot of fun watching that hockey because it’s fast-paced and it’s best-on-best with the Top 40 (prospects) from across the CHL,” Dach concluded. “To get a chance to watch that is pretty special and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Dach was one of 12 players to compete in the 2019 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game before being selected in the first round of the NHL Draft, a group which also includes Bowen Byram (Vancouver Giants/Colorado Avalanche), Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge Hurricanes/Buffalo Sabres), Peyton Krebs (Winnipeg ICE/Vegas Golden Knights), Thomas Harley (Mississauga Steelheads/Dallas Stars), Lassi Thomson (Kelowna Rockets/Ottawa Senators), Samuel Poulin (Sherbrooke Phoenix/Pittsburgh Penguins), Philip Tomasino (Niagara IceDogs/Nashville Predators), Connor McMichael (London Knights/Washington Capitals), Jakob Pelletier (Moncton Wildcats/Calgary Flames), Nolan Foote (Kelowna Rockets/Tampa Bay Lightning), and Ryan Suzuki (Barrie Colts/Carolina Hurricanes).