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Rebuild Report: Blackhawks Take Dach Instead of Defense in ’19

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The Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Draft was the first time they picked in the top three since taking Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in 2006 and 2007 respectively. But a look at the picture of Dach’s drafting is almost metaphorical. John McDonaugh front and center, grinning as if a new generation to keep the winning alive is coming along. Dach smiling as any new draft pick does on what is the most important day of their young career.

Then there’s Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley, who likely just caught the camera at the wrong time. But boy, if anything speaks to what was and would be, there’s the facial expression that best captures it.

Chicago Hockey Now continues the Rebuild Report series with the 2019 Draft, looking at how the foundation was either helped or hampered by the lack of draft choices making it to the big club.

To set the stage, the graph below comes from the well written Dobber Prospects piece  that focuses on the success of draft picks by round in the draft.  This is where our story starts.

Photo from Dobber Prospects – 5/16/20 article by Jokke Nevalainen

Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Draft Primer

Missing the playoffs in 2018 and a losing streak to start the season ended Joel Quenneville’s tenure as the Chicago Blackhawks head coach. Jeremy Colliton took over and though he was over .500, they would miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year. As luck would have it, the Blackhawks would leap to the third pick with only a three percent chance to do so.

So given the golden opportunity, would the Blackhawks capitalize?

Not exactly.

3rd overall pick (1st round) – Kirby Dach
Where is he now? Montreal via Draft

It was a marriage of a draft pick and an organization that never really worked. Everyone tried to make it work. The right things were said and certainly the effort was there from both sides. But just listen to the crowd when the selection was made. There’s a murmur and beyond that, Bowen Byram was sitting there for Chicago to take. In what is likely the most ironic part of all, the last three first-round picks taken by Chicago were defensemen. If there was ever time to take the defenseman, it was there.

They went with Dach. It didn’t work because the expectations, after the Blackhawks lucked into leapfrogging from 12th to third in the draft, put an inordinate amount of pressure on Dach to be “the guy” like Toews and Kane were. Dach played in his rookie campaign immediately and he put up just 23 points (8-15) in 70 games.

From there, it was doomed. He only played 18 games due to a wrist injury in the COVID shortened season, and then 26 points (9-17) in 2021-22. Kyle Davidson dealt him before any further value could be lost. He was still young, likely needed a change of scenery and Davidson got the 13th overall pick out of it.

It would be another Blackhawks first-round pick dealt within three years of his draft year.

43rd overall pick (2nd round) – Alex Vlasic (D)
Where is he now? Still in Chicago

Vlasic has 21 games to his name in Chicago, with six this season and 15 the year prior. He spent the majority of the season with Rockford before playing in late March and early April.

105h overall pick (4th round) – Michal Teply (LW)
Where is he now? Rockford

All 134 of Teply’s games in the organization have been with Rockford. On a team desperate for scoring on the wing, Teply could get a long look in the preseason, and has one year remaining on his contract before becoming a restricted free agent.

167th overall pick (6th round) – Dominic Basse (G)
Where is he now? St. Cloud State

Basse had a good season between the pipes, going 11-5 as the backup following a transfer. Next season, Basse will be the starting netminder and has the chance to truly stand out. He’s already stands above the crowd at 6’6 and could be quite the steal if he has a solid senior campaign.

194th overall pick (7th round) – Cole Moberg (D)
Where is he now? Florida Everblades

Moberg played for Rockford before being going to the Orlando Solar Bears, San Jose Barracuda, and then finally the Everblades. He’s no longer in the orgnization.

2019 Draft By The Numbers and Final Thoughts

  • Hit Percentage (out of 6 picks with at least 99 NHL games): 16.7%
  • Number of total NHL games played with Chicago:  152 (Dach); Vlasic 21
  • Number of total NHL games excluding Chicago: 58 (Dach)
  • Total Cumulative NHL games: 231

So for those keeping score at home, the breakdown so far of cumulative NHL games is this:

  • 2015 – 48
  • 2016 – 514
  • 2017 – 361
  • 2018 – 402
  • 2019 – 231

The 2019 season is the first where the cumulative NHL games aren’t truly as important being that there’s still some time to be had with prospects in this group. But it’s unbelievable on how the four first-round picks from 2017-2019 were all traded away within three seasons. Go back a season and Alex DeBrincat, Chicago’s pick in the second round and arguably the best choice they made, was also traded.

The rebuild-on-the-fly wasn’t working. It never would. But the 2019-20 season would give the organization a head fake into thinking things were okay. A playoff series win would keep everyone hoping that a corner was being turned.  The 2020 Draft would snag Lukas Reichel. Things did actually look better.

But that season would provide a false sense of hope, and much of the future success Chicago thought it was in store for was being lost, as we’ve seen, at the draft table.

Previous Rebuild Report Draft Pick Series: 2015 Draft – Swing and a Miss | 2016 Draft – Delightfully Drafting DeBrincat |   2017 Draft – Trading to only Trade It Away Later | 2018 Draft – Boqvist Goes Eighth

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