Dach back with Hawks, but when will he make NHL debut?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Blackhawks top prospect Kirby Dach (77) puts an exclamation point on his camp by scoring a pair of goals during the team's last scrimmage. Dach is back with the big club, but when will he make his NHL debut? It's a good question with no immediate answer, but the 18-year-old forward was happy to talk about how he'll feel once that day arrives.

    Blackhawks top prospect Kirby Dach (77) puts an exclamation point on his camp by scoring a pair of goals during the team's last scrimmage. Dach is back with the big club, but when will he make his NHL debut? It's a good question with no immediate answer, but the 18-year-old forward was happy to talk about how he'll feel once that day arrives. Courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks

 
 
Updated 10/19/2019 9:57 PM

Kirby Dach is back with the Blackhawks.

Now here's the big question: When will he play in his first NHL game?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

We won't know until Sunday morning at the earliest because coach Jeremy Colliton did not address the media after the team held an optional practice at Fifth Third Arena on Saturday.

Dach, drafted third overall by the Hawks in June, was recalled late Friday night after playing three games for the Rockford IceHogs in a conditioning stint. He could slot into the lineup as early as Sunday in what promises to be a stiff test against the uber-talented Washington Capitals.

Or Colliton could wait until Tuesday when Vegas comes to town. Or perhaps Thursday when the Flyers are in Chicago.

Dach said he had "no idea" which way the staff was leaning, but does have a good idea of how he'll feel once he does crack the lineup.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

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The 6-foot-4, 198-pound forward can play nine games without burning a year of his contract. So if he gets a true nine-game tryout -- and if it begins Sunday -- then Dach would be with the Hawks through a four-game road trip that ends in San Jose on November 5.

There's also the possibility he could be sent back to his junior team, the Saskatoon Blades, at any point.

Dach admitted it's been "a little bit" of a confusing time over the past month and a half. But he's also trying not to worry about what might transpire in a day, a week or a month.

"I don't really want to look at it as, 'Oh, I'll be sent home tomorrow,'" Dach said. "To have that kind of mentality and mindset, it hinders your play and you're kind of coming to the rink thinking, 'Oh, what's this mean? What's that mean?'

"You've just got to focus on your game and not really worry about what's going on."

From the start of training camp, GM Stan Bowman has been adamant that Dach will stick if he can help the Hawks win.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So what is the best way for that to happen?

Do they ease him into a fourth-line role and give him 8-10 minutes for a few games? Or does he get thrown right into the deep end next to Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat on the top line? Or somewhere else?

All good questions, with answers coming soon.

And soon after we'll finally have an answer to perhaps the biggest question of this season: Where will Kirby Dach spend the majority of this season?

The talented -- and confident -- 18-year-old is hoping it's in Chicago helping the Blackhawks make a run at the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"As an athlete we always have confidence in ourselves," Dach said. "You want to portray that confidence. Otherwise if you're always thinking negatively things aren't going to go your way.

"You've always got to have that positive mindset and just kind of step in and think you're going to help the team."

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