Blackhawks to retain Kirby Dach for rest of NHL season

The third overall pick in the draft in June has proved his worth at the NHL level, coach Jeremy Colliton announced Wednesday.

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Kirby Dach has played six NHL games so far, and he’s going to play a lot more, it turns out.

AP Photos

LOS ANGELES — Were it not for a few telltale pimples, Blackhawks rookie Kirby Dach’s stoic expression and monotonous delivery would belie his youth. He carries himself as though he’s 28, not 18.

But talking with the media as a permanent member of the Hawks for the first time Wednesday, Dach’s serious face broke into a slight grin.

‘‘It’s thrilling and it’s exciting for me,’’ Dach said. ‘‘It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life.’’

Moments earlier, coach Jeremy Colliton had said the Hawks would be keeping Dach, the No. 3 overall pick in the NHL Draft in June, for the rest of the 2019-20 season.

Colliton and general manager Stan Bowman sat down with Dach for lunch Tuesday in Nashville, Tennessee, to tell the young center of his fate. But the impending game overshadowed the news in Dach’s mind, and Colliton likewise didn’t tell the rest of the team immediately.

Wing Patrick Kane was pleasantly surprised to hear the news after practice Wednesday in Los Angeles.

‘‘I didn’t even know that, so that’s great for him,’’ Kane said. ‘‘He’s a good player, and he’s going to be a really good player in this league.’’

Now Dach finally can settle in.

In some ways, not much will change. He’s going to keep living with defenseman Brent Seabrook, proving himself against older defenders and occupying roughly the same niche in the lineup. Mentally, however, this represents a huge moment of affirmation.

‘‘It’s a little more comforting, knowing that I’m going to be here year-round instead of that question mark that was always surrounding me,’’ he said.

Through six NHL games, Dach has one goal, one assist and nine shots on goal while averaging 11:59 of ice time. Nearly all of that has come at five-on-five.

Fans have clamored for Dach to get a look on the power play and in a bigger even-strength role, but Colliton said he thinks the youngster will benefit from the somewhat limited workload.

‘‘It’s a long year,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘Playing 80 games in the NHL is a lot different than playing 70 in the Western [Hockey] League. Even the minutes, playing 10 in the NHL is a lot more taxing than playing 20 in the [WHL] or 15 in the American [Hockey] League.

‘‘We’ll manage that, and he may not play every game, either. He’s still pretty light, and we need him to continue to get his strength work in. And during the year, it’s difficult when you play so many games.’’

Dach agreed strength is his biggest area of need. He has a 6-4 frame on which to add muscle, and he has looked top-heavy at times — especially against the Predators on Tuesday, when he went down too easily a few times.

Nonetheless, Dach quickly has shown a solid comfort level and an impressive upside, especially considering his recovery from a concussion robbed him of training camp.

The Hawks could have waited until the end of their road trip — Saturday against the Kings, Sunday against the Ducks and Tuesday against the Sharks — to decide whether to burn the first year of Dach’s entry-level contract this season. That they felt confident enough to do so four games early is noteworthy.

‘‘He’s played well, he’s shown he can help us and he’s only going to get better,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘There’s likely going to be huge improvement as the year goes on. The player [he is] in February I’m sure is going to be an impact player for us.’’

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