Friday, 21 June 2019

The Dach is in – Blades star goes third overall in NHL Entry Draft

Kirby Dach was selected third overall by the Blackhawks.
    Kirby Dach looked like a child who received a desperately wanted gift from Santa Claus at Christmas.
    On Friday at the NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, B.C., Dach was selected in the first round and third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. The draft’s first round was held Friday and rounds two through seven are slated for Saturday.
    Dach, who is a star centre with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, gave the look of being caught off guard in a good way in front of the national television cameras.
    The combination of surprise and joy in the Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., product’s face showed he got something he really wanted.
    Before being picked by the Blackhawks, Dach watched the first two selections of the NHL Entry Draft go down as expected.
    With the first overall pick, the New Jersey Devils took centre Jack Hughes from the United States National Team Development Program. Following that selection, the New York Rangers picked right-winger Kaapo Kakko second overall from the TPS program in Finland.
    At the third selection, various prognosticators had a glut of players who could potentially be selected at that spot including Dach, centre Alex Turcotte of the United States National Team Development Program, defenceman Bowan Byram from the Vancouver Giants, centre Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and centre Trevor Zegras of the United States National Team Development Program.
Kirby Dach put up 73 points with the Blades last season.
    Byram impressed as an offensive defenceman helping the Vancouver Giants advance to the WHL final, where the Giants fell 3-2 in overtime in a series-deciding Game 7 to the Prince Albert Raiders.
    Dach seemed to be ready mentally for a longer sit, but as it turned out, those preparations weren’t needed.
    When the Blackhawks announced their selection of Dach, the 18-year-old seemed to be floating on air.
    While you could split hairs on who could be picked third overall, Dach is deserving of that high selection. The skilled centre has only scratched the surface of how could he can be.
    Add in the fact Dach stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 200 pounds, a team couldn’t turn away from a player that has the combination of size and skill that Dach has.
    He works extremely hard in his off-season workouts and is one of those players you never have to worry about. You know he will make the right decisions in life and in the game almost all the time.
    When the day comes Dach’s body physically matures allowing him to hold more muscle increasing his power and strength, you have to wonder how good he will be on the ice as the increased power and strength will lead to some extra confidence.
    Last season, Dach piled up 25 goals, 48 assists and a plus-15 rating in the plus-minus department in 62 regular season games. He added another five goals and three assists in the Blades 10 playoff games.
    Saskatoon swept the Moose Jaw Warriors 4-0 in a best-of-seven first round series before falling 4-2 to the Raiders.
Kirby Dach scored a highlight reel playoff goal against the Raiders.
    Of course, Dach turned heads with a highlight reel goal in Game 2 of the series against the Raiders that was shown on national television.
    Throughout his hockey career, Dach has consistently made highlight reel plays. He closed off his time in the bantam AAA ranks netting 29 goals and 71 assists in 33 regular season games with his hometown Fort Saskatchewan Boston Pizza Rangers in 2014-15.
    He went to the Fort Saskatchewan Boston Pizza Rangers midget AAA team as an underage 14-year-old player and netted 14 goals and 21 assists in 34 regular season games in 2015-16.
    Thanks to those efforts, the Blades selected Dach in the first round and second overall in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.
    Due to injuries, the Blades received special permission late in the 2016-17 campaign to allow Dach to play for an extended stay during his 15-year-old season. He appeared in 19 regular season games posting six goals, four assists and a plus-three rating.
    On Feb. 20, 2017, Dach scored his first two career WHL regular season goals in spectacular fashion in a 4-2 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors at the SaskTel Centre.
Kirby Dach has been a high-end offensive player his whole hockey career.
    Being one of the few that skates in a full-time role on the top two lines with a major junior team as a 16-year-old rookie, Dach recorded seven goals and 39 assists in 52 regular season games in the 2017-18 campaign.
    That set the stage for Dach to play for Canada’s under-18 at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last August in Edmonton and Red Deer. He had a goal and six assists in five games helping Canada to a gold medal finish.
    From there, Dach went on to a solid campaign for the Blades, where he earned the role of being one of the team’s assistant captains in January.
    Besides his scoring, Dach turned heads early on with his strong two-way play. Even during his 16-year-old season, he was committed to working hard in the defensive zone.
    One Dach’s best games last season came on Dec. 9, 2018, when the Blades blanked the Raiders 1-0 at the SaskTel Centre. Dach didn’t have any points in that game, but he was a visible force at both ends of the ice.
    In the history of the Blades franchise, Dach becomes the 19th player to be selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. The last time a Blades player was selected as high as he was came back in 1988, when defenceman Curtis Leschyshyn was selected third overall by the Quebec Nordiques.
Kirby Dach will get a chance to make Canada’s world junior team.
    On Friday night, Dach got to rightfully celebrate a huge milestone for all the hard work he put into his hockey career.
    The draft selection caps a highlight week. On Wednesday, Hockey Canada announced Dach was invited to the national junior team summer development camp that starts July 27 and runs through to Aug. 4 in Plymouth, Mich.
    He will be highly-touted for a spot on Canada’s squad that will play at the upcoming world juniors that run from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2020 in Ostrava and Trinic in the Czech Republic.
    It is possible Dach might not be available for world juniors or even return to the Blades. He could potentially sign an NHL entry-level contract with the Blackhawks, and being the third overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft, his odds of making the NHL club next season increased.
    If Dach does return to the Blades, he will have an opportunity to play major junior on the same team with his younger brother, Colton, who will be a 16-year-old rookie for Saskatoon next season. The Blades selected Colton in the first round and sixth overall in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft.
    Kirby Dach will face extra scrutiny for the rest of his hockey career due to his high NHL Entry Draft selection. 
Kirby Dach (#77) celebrates scoring a goal for the Blades.
    He will likely find Jeremy Colliton, who is the Blackhawks young 34-year-old head coach, will be a great resource in navigating those waters.
    Colliton, who is a two-time member of Canada’s world junior team and a former member of the Raiders, is extremely intelligent and is familiar with all sorts of pressure situations in the game.
    For the moment, Dach gets to enjoy one of the most memorable moments of his life.
    The decisions regarding his hockey future will unfold in the days and weeks to come.
    In the present, he should be allowed to soak in a great day.

Byram heads rest of WHL field in NHL Draft first round

Bowen Byran was selected fourth overall by the Avalanche.
    Bowen Byram was the defenceman you had to take in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
    The star of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants didn’t have to wait long before being selected at this year’s NHL Entry in Vancouver, B.C.
    The Colorado Avalanche selected Byram fourth overall in the first round that was held on Friday. The draft concludes with rounds two to seven on Saturday.
    Byram was the first rearguard to be selected in the draft and the second player from the WHL to have his name called following centre Kirby Dach of the Saskatoon Blades, who went third overall to the Chicago Blackhawks.
    Byram, who turned 18-years-old earlier this month, had a sensational season in 2018-19. He piled up 26 goals, 45 assists and a plus-33 rating in the plus-minus department in 67 regular season games with the Giants.
    He helped the Giants advance to the WHL final, there they fell 3-2 in overtime in a series deciding Game 7 to the Prince Albert Raiders.
    In 22 post-season games, Byram, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 195 pounds, had eight goals, 18 assists and a plus-10 rating.
    A total of seven WHL players were taking in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft.
Dylan Cozens was selected seventh overall by the Sabres.
    Lethbridge Hurricanes centre Dylan Cozens was selected seventh overall by the Buffalo Sabres. Playing in all of the Hurricanes 68 regular season games, Cozens had 34 goals, 50 assists and a plus-32 rating.
    Cozens rounded out the WHL players that were taken with the top 10 selections in the draft.
    The other first round NHL Entry Draft selections from the WHL included centre Peyton Krebs of the Winnipeg Ice, who are formerly the Kootenay Ice, going 17th overall to the Vegas Golden Knights.
    Defenceman Lassi Thomson of the Kelowna Rockets went 19th overall to the Ottawa Senators, and Rockets left-winger Nolan Foote went 27th overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
    Moose Jaw Warriors left-winger Brayden Tracey was the final WHL player taken in the first round going 29th overall to the Anaheim Ducks.
    The United States National Team Development Program had eight players selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. That included centre Jack Hughes going first overall to the New Jersey Devils, centre Alex Turcotte going fifth overall to the Los Angeles Kings and centre Trevor Zegras going ninth overall to the Ducks.
    Right-winger Brett Leason and left-winger Aliaksei Protas of the Raiders are still eligible to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft.

WWCFL semifinals hit the field this weekend

Katie Hungle (#99) and the Riot are set for their WWCFL semifinal game.
    The road to the Western Women’s Canadian Football League championship game has narrowed to two semifinal contests that will be played this weekend.
    On Saturday in Edmonton, the host Storm host the two-time defending champion Regina Riot. The Storm enter this match having won four games in a row, and they are 4-1 including action in the regular season and playoffs.
    The Riot are trying to win a second straight road game in order to return home and be the host team for the WWCFL title game for a second straight year. The Riot have a 2-3 record including play in the regular season and playoffs.
    The other WWCFL semifinal is slated for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field in Saskatoon featuring the host Valkyries taking on the Lethbridge Steel.
    The Valkyries are 5-0 including action in the regular season and playoffs and are 6-0 overall including action in the pre-season. The Steel are 3-2 including action in the regular season and playoffs.
    The winners of the two semifinal advance to the WWCFL championship game slated for June 29 at 4 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.

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