The big day is finally here: the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. A day that many young hockey players have dreamt about since the first time they squeezed a stick or stepped on a sheet of ice. Saskatoon Blades forward Kirby Dach is no exception. He’s been dreaming about this moment for as long as he can remember and the surreal experience is only just beginning.
“I know every kid says this but it’s been something Kirby has been dreaming of since he was little,” explained Kirby’s father, Dale. “His focus and his dream haven’t changed, he hasn’t strayed from it.”
Kirby is the oldest of three Dach siblings; his younger brother Colton who is following in Kirby’s footsteps with the Saskatoon Blades and baby sister Callie all share a strong passion for the game of hockey. It’s been something that’s kept the siblings close throughout their childhood.
“Our main goal in life has been for our children to be happy and to enjoy what they do,” added Kirby’s mother, Hilary. “And he loves the game of hockey, so we’re so proud of him.”
Kirby began skating not long after taking his first steps and as they say, the rest has been history. He came up through the Fort Saskatchewan minor hockey program, often playing with and against kids two or three years his senior. Still, Dach stood out.
When he was 13-years-old playing in his second season of Bantam AAA– despite being the age of a “first year” bantam, Dach exploded onto the hockey world’s radar as an elite talent. In just 33 games, Kirby scored 100 points to lead the Alberta Major Bantam League in scoring. He had 20 more points than the next closest player, who also happened to be his line mate. This achievement shattered the previous league scoring record of 84 points set by Tyler Benson.
The next season Dach was climbing the ladder once again as an underage player. He joined Fort Saskatchewan’s Midget AAA Rangers as a 14-year-old; his WHL Bantam Draft season. Playing against opponents aged 15-17, Dach tallied 35 points in 34 games and was selected 2nd overall in May of 2016 by the Saskatoon Blades.
Fans in Saskatoon didn’t have to wait the full 15-year-old season to see Kirby Dach either. The young phenom was granted permission from the Western Hockey League to play more than the allowed 5-game maximum for 15-year-old players. He dressed for 19 games during the 2016-17 season and scored six goals and 10 points, including a pair of goals that made a lasting impression in the league.
Since that moment, Kirby Dach has become a household name not only in Saskatoon, but across the hockey universe. Dach helped team Canada to a gold medal at the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky tournament in Edmonton, kickstarting his draft stock prior to the 2018-19 WHL season.
Then in November, Kirby was selected to represent the Western Hockey League at the CIBC Canada Russia series. A team typically made up of 19-year-old players, Dach was one of three 2001 born draft eligibles on the WHL roster alongside Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge Hurricanes) and Bowen Byram (Vancouver), who are also expected to be top 10 picks in tonight’s draft.
The whirlwind season continued for the superstar pivot as he was called upon once again by the Canadian Hockey League. This time to participate in the annual Sherwin-Williams Top Prospects game in Red Deer, Alberta. Not only was Dach invited to play, he was named the team captain of Team Orr. As evidenced below, it was a successful event for his side.
Kirby returned to Saskatoon and helped the Blades to a dominating finish in the second half. The now 18-year-old finished the seasons strong with 73 points in 62 regular season games. He was named the Blades top forward for the 2018-19 campaign, and also received the Bentley Memorial Award as the Blades top academic student.
Up next were the WHL playoffs. Something hockey fans in Saskatoon had been starving for and were looking to #77 to end the drought ever since his name was called at the 2016 bantam draft. Kirby did not disappoint.
He led the Blades in playoff scoring with five goals and three assists in 10 playoff games. He was instrumental in Saskatoon’s first round sweep of the Moose Jaw Warriors, which featured a dazzling short-handed goal in game four:
Dach then turned heads nationwide in the second series against the eventual WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders. The first three games of the series were broadcast nationally on Sportsnet, and Dach came up big with a jaw dropping, highlight reel goal in game two:
In game three, Dach teamed up with fellow draft eligible Blade, Nolan Maier, to give Saskatoon their first win in the series. Kirby scored the lone goal and Nolan Maier pitched the shutout.
The Blades would eventually bow out to the Raiders in six games, with Dach sharing the Co-MVP honours for the Blades with Nolan Maier. Immediately after the series, Dach was invited to join team Canada’s U18 squad at the World U18 tournament in Sweden, but Kirby declined after disclosing he was playing through injury in the playoffs.
It was a wise choice to rest, because next on the docket was the NHL Combine. The rigorous week was followed up by a dream trip with a handful of the top prospects to take in a game of the Stanley Cup Final in St. Louis. Dach was also featured on Hockey Night in Canada’s annual segment with Don Cherry.
The journey is now at it’s final stop this week in Vancouver; media availabilities, team meetings, and even some tours along the harbour.
“It hasn’t really set in yet and I don’t think it will until a few minutes before the draft begins,” said Dach during a media availability on Wednesday in Vancouver. “I have a little bit of downtime to relax, reflect a little, and realize my dream is going to come true.”
While the experience may be overwhelming and moving at a rapid rate, Kirby is surrounded by his family in Vancouver as the tight knit crew continues to support their son and brother.
The first round of the draft begins at 6:00pm CST in Saskatoon and fans are invited to join the official draft viewing party at Shoeless Joe’s Sports Grill in Saskatoon. Fans will have a chance to win one of three Kirby Dach Saskatoon Blades jerseys.
Kirby Dach will join a long list of Saskatoon Blades first round draft picks:
– Nikita Scherbak, 26th by Montreal, 2014.
– Duncan Siemens, 11th by Colorado, 2011
– Colton Gillies, 16th by Minnesota, 2007.
– Devin Setoguchi, 8th by San Jose, 2005
– Mike Green, 29th by Washington, 2004
– Adrian Foster, 28th by New Jersey, 2001.
– Wade Belak, 12th Quebec, 1994.
– Richard Matvichuk, 8th by Minnesota, 1991.
– Scott Scissons, 6th by NYI, 1990.
– Curtis Leschyshyn, 3rd by Quebec, 1988.
– Kory Kocur, 17th by Detroit,1988.
– Wendel Clark, 1st by Toronto, 1985.
– Duncan MacPherson, 20th by NYI, 1984.
– Blair Chapman, 2nd by Pittsburgh, 1976.
– Fred Williams, 4th by Detroit, 1976.
– Bernie Federko, 7th by St. Louis, 1976.
– Ralph Klassen, 3rd by California, 1975.
– Pat Price, 11th by NYI, 1975.