Blackhawks notebook: Kirby Dach assigned to Rockford for conditioning stint
The third overall pick in the NHL Draft in June played Saturday for the IceHogs and can play up to four more games there.
Center Kirby Dach played a pro hockey game in a red-and-black sweater Saturday.
There was one caveat, however: It was for the IceHogs.
Earlier in the day, the Hawks assigned Dach — whom they drafted with the third overall pick in June — to Rockford of the American Hockey League for a conditioning stint. Hours later, he made his pro debut in the IceHogs’ 4-2 loss to Grand Rapids.
Dach’s individual performance was uneventful — two shots on goal while skating on the fourth line — but the fact he played only can be seen as a step forward. He had been sidelined since suffering a minor shoulder injury and a concussion in the final game of a prospects tournament Sept. 10 in Traverse City, Michigan.
He resumed skating with the Hawks during their trip to Europe and even took part in the morning skate Saturday at the United Center. But the news of his return to competitive hockey came about quickly and unexpectedly.
‘‘We’re trying to set him up, give him the best opportunity, so when he does get the chance here, he’ll be as ready as he can be,’’ coach Jeremy Colliton said. ‘‘It’s a good league down there and a chance for him to get his feet wet against men.’’
By NHL rules, Dach can spend up to 14 days in the AHL. That means he can appear in four more games, including the IceHogs’ matchup Saturday against the Wolves at Allstate Arena.
Young prospects from Canadian juniors typically are barred from playing in AHL games — they must stay in the NHL or be sent back to their junior club — but the conditioning-stint designation enabled the Hawks to sidestep that rule. Still, this marks the first time a No. 3 overall pick has played a minor-league game before making his NHL debut since Jonathan Drouin in 2014-15.
Dach’s AHL appearances won’t count against his limit of nine NHL games before the first year of his three-year entry-level contract goes into effect this season.
Top defensive prospect Adam Boqvist also made his pro debut in the IceHogs’ loss and earned top-pairing minutes alongside Dennis Gilbert.
De Haan returns
The Hawks’ list of injured players, which had become rather lengthy at one point late in the preseason, now stands at zero.
Defenseman Calvin de Haan made his Hawks debut after missing the first two regular-season games and the entire preseason while recovering from shoulder surgery and a groin issue.
Cheery as always, de Haan implied after the morning skate that he didn’t feel 100 percent healthy but was close enough to that level to play.
‘‘I’m going to have to try it at some point anyway, so . . . I’d rather get in the lineup sooner than later and help this team win,’’ he said. ‘‘I might look slow at the beginning, but I’ll just try and keep it simple and just play my game.’’
De Haan seemed to be having a solid first game before he and captain Jonathan Toews miscommunicated disastrously on the Jets’ tying goal in the third period. Still, de Haan finished with 18:03 in ice time, and Colliton said he thought he provided an overall ‘‘steady presence.’’