|Kirby Dach in action with the Blades in January of 2019.|
At first, it appeared the 19-year-old Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., product wouldn’t ever get the chance to play at a world juniors, because the skilled centre progressed too quickly when it came to playing the game of hockey.
During the 2018-19 campaign, Dach had a spectacular 17-year-old sophomore campaign with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades posting 25 goals, 48 assists and a plus-15 rating in the plus-minus department in 62 regular season games.
He added five goals and three assists appearing in all 10 of the Blades games in the 2019 WHL playoffs.
Thanks to those efforts, Dach, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 197 pounds, was selected in the first round and third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He signed a three-year NHL entry-level contract with the Blackhawks going into last season.
He progressed well enough through summer that he was able to crack the Blackhawks roster as an 18-year-old rookie. Dach played regular minutes with the Blackhawks appearing in 64 regular season games recording eight goals, 15 assists and a minus-one rating.
The Blackhawks deemed Dach to be so valuable that they didn’t make him available to Canada for the world junior championship tournament played in Ostrava in the Czech Republic in the 2019-20 season. Canada captured the gold medal downing Russia 4-3 in the tournament final played on Jan. 5.
|Kirby Dach made the NHL last season as an 18-year-old rookie.|
Dach is one of 47 players who will take part in the selection camp for Canada’s world junior team that will start on Nov. 16 in Red Deer and run for 28 days to Dec. 13. Players will begin living in a bubble environment when they arrive in camp on Nov. 16 and won’t leave that environment until the world juniors wrap up on Jan. 5, 2021.
The bubble environment is being utilized due to the fact the world is firmly in the grips of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Canadian selection camp itself is closed to the public and the media due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Had the world unfolded like normal, Dach likely wouldn’t have been made available for world juniors.
Going into that event, Dach will have experience on his side. He suited up with the Blackhawks as part of the NHL’s modified post-season played in the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton in August and September.
The Blackhawks played exclusively in Edmonton winning a best-of-five qualification series against the host Oilers 3-1 before falling in five games in a best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final series to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Dach appeared in all of the Blackhawks nine post-season games posting one goal, five assists and a plus-three rating.
It will not be a new experience for Dach when it comes to living in a bubble environment. In the current day, players are more connected to each other than ever thanks to social media, and other attendees at the camp will be able to talk to Dach about his bubble environment experiences.
|Kirby Dach is in Hockey Canada’s plans for world juniors.|
At the moment, Dach will get to revisit the ultimate dream of playing for Canada. Back in August of 2018, Dach helped Canada win gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup held jointly at Rogers Place in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta.
Dach had two goals and five assists playing in all of Canada’s five games at that event. He played at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup along with Blades teammate in netminder Nolan Maier and with Blades head coach Mitch Love on the Canadian team staff as an assistant coach.
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup is a best-versus-best tournament featuring the top national teams in the world in the under-18 age group.
Back in November of 2017, both Dach and Maier played for Canada Black at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge held jointly in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, B.C. Dach had a goal and six assists in five games at that event.
At this year’s world junior selection camp for Hockey Canada, Dach will be reunited with Love, who will serve as an assistant coach for Canada for the second straight year.
For a short time, Dach will be back with his age group and will likely get an opportunity to be a leader amongst that group. That group includes 15 invitees from the WHL.
The invitees include offensive-defenceman Kaiden Guhle of the Prince Albert Raiders along with Prince Albert product and Brandon Wheat Kings offensive defenceman Braden Schneider.
|Kirby Dach helped Canada win gold at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.|
Left-winger Alexis Lafreniere, who is slated to be with the NHL’s New York Rangers on a full-time basis this coming season, might still be added the selection camp roster too.
Of course, the spectre of the COVID-19 pandemic hangs over this event, and there is still a chance world juniors might not happen.
Still at this moment in time, Dach is on a path to skate for Canada at world juniors and realize a dream he had watching the event annually over the Christmas season growing up. It is a dream he should every chance to make a reality, if world events allow it.
SMF high school academy league shines, other notes
|Daniel Wiebe (#5) runs the ball for Team Green 1.|
Back in August when the Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate cancelled high school football for the city due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Saskatoon Minor Football stepped in to fill the void. SMF signed up high school aged players from Grades 10 to 12 for the fall North Saskatchewan Academy.
The University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team ran some high school programming too, but SMF was hoping to get in some games likely under a six-man format.
For about the past month and a half, SMF held games in league play through the fall Northern Sask Academy League. The players that signed up for the high school academy were split into six teams for league games, which were play in 12-versus-12 format.
The league ended up being a best-versus-best circuit from the Saskatoon high school ranks. The level of play at the games that took place at Saskatoon Minor Football Field was outstanding.
The circuit wrapped up with a trio of games on Wednesday night. Team Green 1 got past Team Black 35-28, Team White downed Team Blue 22-8 and Team Yellow slipped by Team Green 2 by score of 25-13.
|Toryn Swystun-Bernes (#77) locks in a block for Team Blue.|
It seemed like the big plays that were made felt that much bigger, because the level of play felt like it was a step up from regular high school football.
If you were able to watch the streamed broadcasts over SMF’s Facebook site, you could tell the SMF crew did a fantastic job with the game presentation. At the park, the public address announcing and the music that played between breaks and after scores was spot on.
The crew with SMF deserve a tonne of credit for making this league happen during these COVID-19 pandemic times, and the level of play from the circuit was beyond what anyone could imagine.
The fall Northern Sask Academy League games were definitely the gem of the Saskatoon sports scene during the fall months this year.
- On Monday, the sports scene in Edmonton and nationally had a somber day with the passing of 57-year-old Joey Moss, who was a dressing room attendant for the NHL’s Oilers and the CFL’s Edmonton Football Club. Moss, who had Down syndrome since birth, had been with both teams since the mid 1980s and became an institution in Edmonton’s sports scene.
- On Monday, David Braley, who was the owner of the CFL’s British Columbia Lions, passed away at age 79 after battling an undisclosed long term illness. Braley had previously owned the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts. He first got involved with the CFL in 1987 as the Tiger-Cats owner. He was credited with playing a big part in keeping the CFL alive in tough times. On Thursday, 3DownNation reported Braley put aside a substantial amount of money in his will to fund the Lions for several seasons in the future if need be.
- On Tuesday, three members of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders were named to NHL Central Scouting’s “Players to Watch” list. Defenceman Nolan Allan was given a ‘B’ rating, while defenceman Landon Kosior and netminder Carter Serhyenko were given ‘C’ ratings.
- On Tuesday, centre Colton Dach from the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades was named to NHL Central Scouting’s “Players to Watch” list. He was given a “C” rating.
- On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series downing the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 of the best-of-seven series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The Dodgers took the set 4-2. The media eyes focused on the fact Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was pulled from the game after the seventh inning, when he was notified he tested positive for COVID-19. Turner returned to the field to celebrate victory with his teammates and posed for a team photo without a facemask. On Wednesday, the commissioner’s office of the MLB said it was investigating Turner for his actions in returning to the field for victory celebrations. The MLB dodged a bullet with the Dodgers winning Tuesday’s game to end the 2020 MLB campaign. Had the Rays won, a series deciding Game 7 may not have been held on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see of initial uproar of Turner returning to the field after his positive COVID-19 test will have any staying power as the MLB off-season motors on.
- On Wednesday, the Kansas City Mavericks of the ECHL announced they had signed University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team goalie Taran Kozun. The 26-year old Kozun appeared in 22 regular season games with the Huskies last season posting a 17-3-2 record, a 1.87 goals against average, a .931 save percentage and five shutouts. He also scored a goal. Kozun backstopped the Huskies to a Canada West Conference championship and was named the U Sports play of the year and goaltender of the year. He also took home honours as the Canada West player of the year and goaltender of the year.
- On Wednesday, the National Lacrosse League announced it was targeting to start its upcoming regular season and 35th campaign on the weekend of April 9 to 11, 2021.
- On Wednesday, golf legend Jack Nicklaus put out a tweet endorsing to re-elect Donald Trump as president of the United States. On Friday, Nicklaus told Tom D’Angelo of The Palm Beach Post he believed the number of deaths due to COVID-19 being reported in the United States are inflated. On Friday, hockey icon Bobby Orr took out a full page ad in the New Hampshire Union Leader endorsing Trump’s re-election bid. Both Nicklaus and Orr are taking major heat for their stands, while being defended by Trump supporters. While both Nicklaus and Orr are free to vote and endorse who they like, they aren’t immune from the fact that the easiest way for a sports figure to take a hit in their prestige is to say something about the world of politics.
- On Thursday, the Clemson University Tigers football team in the top level of the NCAA ranks announced star quarterback Trevor Lawrence has tested positive for COVID-19. He will not be available for today’s game when the Tigers (6-0) host the Boston College Eagles (4-2). Lawrence is predicted to be the top pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, if he chooses to leave university early. He is viewed as a favourite to win the Heisman Trophy as the top player in NCAA football.
- On Thursday, the OHL announced it plans to start its upcoming regular season on Feb. 4, 2021. Originally, the OHL had targeted to start its regular season on Dec. 1. The shortened regular season will consist of 40 games. The playoff field for the OHL will be shrunk from 16 teams to eight teams. The first round will be a best-of-five format and the second and third rounds will be best-of-seven series. The Memorial Cup tournament to determine a CHL champion is slated to start June 17, 2021 in either Oshawa or Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. The WHL is planning to start its regular season on January 8, 2021. The QMJHL began its regular season on Oct. 1, but eight teams in the province of Quebec still won’t be playing this weekend being located in what the provincial government there terms are “red zones” due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
- On Friday, the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades added 36-year-old Tyler Dietrich as a new assistant coach. Dietrich played centre in the WHL from 2000 to 2005 with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Medicine Hat Tigers and Everett Silvertips appearing in 133 regular season games collecting 31 goals and 47 assists. He has been coaching for the last 20 years and led Hockey Canada’s video coaching program for the last four seasons. Dietrich comes aboard as 36-year-old assistant coach Ryan Keller has made the decision to scale back his responsibilities with the team to spend more time with his family. He will remain with the Blades as a skills and development coach.
- On Friday, the Government of Manitoba announced a one day record of 480 new COVID-19 cases for the province. Manitoba’s capital city of Winnipeg was moved to the red or critical level, which is the highest stage of pandemic response. Movie theatres, concert halls, sports facilities and restaurant dining rooms will be ordered to close starting Monday. The rest of Manitoba will move to the orange or restricted level starting Monday. The measures will be in place for at least two weeks. There have already been increased restrictions in recent weeks in Ontario and Quebec as COVID-19 case numbers rise. As COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise in the rest of Western Canada, it would be wise to expect more restrictions could be coming down the line. That isn’t being typed to create fear. It is just an education expectation after watching other jurisdictions in Canada. Also, everyone is operating on their own agendas, so it is easy to expect COVID-19 numbers will continue to go upwards.
- On Friday, Gregg Drinnan wrote in his Taking Note blog on Friday night all the havoc that is being caused in the sports scene in Winnipeg and Manitoba due to the incoming COVID-19 restrictions. That piece can be found by clicking right here.
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