Blackhawks found more talent overseas in Dominik Kubalik
Over the past few seasons, the Blackhawks have managed to unearth some fairly impressive players from overseas.
The crowned jewel, of course, was Artemi Panarin, but Stan Bowman and Co. also managed to acquire serviceable forwards Dominik Kahun and David Kampf, as well as D-man Jan Rutta.
The latest addition to this smorgasbord of talent comes in the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Dominik Kubalik, a 24-year-old forward who possesses a wicked shot and an insatiable off-the-ice work ethic inspired by his brother.
Kubalik introduced himself to Hawks fans with an impressive 2-goal performance in a preseason game Sept. 17 at Detroit, but let's take a deeper dive into this affable, well-spoken Czech Republic native and see what fans can expect out of him this season.
Kubalik is a workout fiend.
His dedication to staying in the best shape possible stems from his close relationship with his older brother, Tomas, who was a fifth-round pick of Columbus in 2008.
Tomas had terrible luck with injuries -- undergoing surgeries on both knees, both shoulders and suffering a concussion -- but all of that never stopped him from playing in the NHL, AHL and KHL, as well as in Germany, the Czech League and the Finnish Elite League.
"He was -- and is still -- my idol," says a reflective Kubalik. "Young brothers always want to be like their older brothers.
"He's probably the hardest-working guy I've met in my life. He's doing everything he can to play. And he still battled when his health wasn't going his way. For me, he's a warrior."
Those traits rubbed off on Dominik, and are a big reason Bowman's staff honed in on him last year. The Hawks acquired him in January from the Kings for a fifth-round pick.
After posting a 25-goal season (in just 50 games) in the Swiss-A League, the Hawks inked Kubalik to a one-year, $925,000 contract.
"There's some really good NHL players (who) kind of cruise around, wait for their moment and get a burst of energy," Bowman said. "That's not Dominik. He's skating a lot and you noticed him as a result. He's an involved, active player.
"That's something our coaches love about him."
'What a bullet!'
A split second after Kubalik unleashed a nasty shot that found the back of the net in that preseason game in Detroit, play-by-play man Pat Foley exclaimed: "He scores! What a bullet! Oh, my. A one-timer in and out of the net before Calvin Pickard moved."
One thing Kubalik isn't afraid to admit is that he loves to shoot. Give him a little space and he'll wind up and fire almost every time.
"I don't want to say (I never) pass," Kubalik said, smiling. "When you play on the power play, you've got to be able to make some plays. But if I have a choice to take a shot or to make a pass, I would probably take a shot. That's my strength."
He used that strength in starring at the World Championships in May for the Czech Republic, scoring 6 goals and adding 6 assists. Kubalik credits veteran Jan Kovar for giving him prime scoring chances.
"It's a lot easier because he doesn't want to shoot," Kubalik said. "All he was doing was passing to me, and I was just trying to find my spot."
Where he'll play
Thus far, coach Jeremy Colliton has slotted Kubalik in on the third line with Brandon Saad and David Kampf. It seems like a good starting point for the rookie because it gives him the opportunity to play with his countryman and friend in Kampf, as well as a proven scorer in Saad.
This line -- if it stays intact for much of the season -- might be one of the biggest keys to the Hawks' success. After all, Colliton's squad saw very little secondary scoring during the 2018-19 campaign, and this trio has the potential to put up 45 to 50 goals.
Colliton loved Kubalik's game away from the puck against the Red Wings and was particularly impressed by his first goal, which came on a backhander in front of the net off a rebound.
"He was active, he had a couple of really good tracks back, forced turnovers," Colliton said. "If he can pressure the puck up ice and force turnovers, he'll put himself in a position to unload that cannon."
A cannon that figures to be used on the second power-play unit as well.
There's a lot to like here, and remember Kubalik is still getting used to the smaller ice and the faster play of the NHL.
So what kind of numbers can we expect? Well, Kahun scored 13 goals and had 24 assists as a rookie last season while averaging 14:09 of ice time. It took a while for him to get going as he scored just four times in the first 41 games.
Kubalik is more offensively gifted than Kahun and should get power-play time, so 15 to 18 goals seems a reasonable expectation, especially if he earns time in a top-six role with Jonathan Toews and/or Patrick Kane.
"When you watch Kaner or Tazer, every time they know what to do. You can learn a lot of stuff from them," said Kubalik when asked if he's a bit star-struck being on the same team as the future Hall of Famers. "I don't really want to think that I could play with them. It's still like a dream for me.
"But I'll do whatever it takes to be with them."