Blackhawks development camp notebook: After 4 days, Kirby Dach already emerging as leader
Plus, Brandon Hagel is preparing for his rookie season in AHL, and Philipp Kurashev’s blinding speed stands out.
Kirby Dach is a Blackhawks development-camp rookie, and he wasn’t even a Hawks prospect a month ago. But if the Hawks were to name captains for the camp-concluding scrimmage Friday morning, Dach would have a good case to be one.
The third pick in the 2019 draft, one of a mere handful of 18-year-olds in attendance, has been noticeable not only because of his size and skill — Dach’s puckhandling, not considered one of his stronger suits entering the draft, has been dazzling at times — but his leadership.
When MacKenzie Entwistle took a hard spill into the corner boards during a two-on-two drill Thursday, Dach skated over immediately at the end of the drill to check on him. -Entwistle was fine, but that moment has proved indicative of a week that has seen Dach seemingly grow every day.
“He’s got all the excitement to be on the ice,” general manager Stan Bowman said earlier in the week. “He’s focused, but he’s enjoying himself. He’s got a combination of attributes that we wish everybody had.”
There won’t, it must be clarified, be captains at the scrimmage, but Dach’s talent and poise will give him a massive advantage for whichever side he’s assigned to.
For all of its monotony, camp occasionally gets intense. Some friendly expletives were exchanged after the red team beat the white team in the aforementioned rotating two-on-two game.
Friday will be the closest thing to a -regular-season game any of these prospects will experience until September, so some mild stakes will be on the line.
Hagel builds off eight-game AHL trial
Brandon Hagel, originally a Sabres draft pick who signed as a free agent with the Hawks last fall, dominated last season as a fourth-year junior. The 6-1 winger had 41 goals and 102 points in 66 games for the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, tying for fourth in the league in scoring.
“Obviously, it was a good year for myself, just growing as a person as well as a player,” he said. “I was an older guy, so just leading all those younger guys … helped me on and off the ice.”
Hagel joined Rockford for eight games at the end of the AHL regular season, recording one assist, and said that experience helped him get accustomed to what life will be like this coming season.
He also has continued a ramped-up offseason training regimen that he adopted after being spurned by the Sabres a year ago.
“My speed’s really important to me, and obviously I can keep improving on that,” he said. “The game’s turning really fast ... so I’ve got to be able to use my speed.”
Kurashev impressive in camp
Philipp Kurashev skyrocketed up the Hawks’ prospect hierarchy in 2018-19, in large part because of a shockingly dominant world junior championship performance with Switzerland. He looks every bit a top-tier forward at camp.
No one’s straight-line speed has matched Kurashev’s, and he has demonstrated a quick first stride, too.
The 2018 fourth-round pick, who had 65 points in 59 games in the QMJHL last season before appearing in three late contests for Rockford, said that he grew up idolizing Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin.
That’s a high bar to reach, but his -ascension in the last year suggests a lofty ceiling.