Lessons from Chicago’s Main Four will help Kirby Dach lead Canada to World Juniors

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After a full season in the National Hockey League, Kirby Dach seizes the opportunity to return to the junior level. With the world junior selection camp set to begin Nov. 16 in Red Deer, Alta., The Chicago Blackhawks have loaned the center to Hockey Canada.

“As a Canadian kid, it’s a dream come true to be able to play for Team Canada in this event,” said Dach. “My mindset is that I want to be one of the best players on the team. ”

Dach produced eight goals and 15 assists in 64 regular season games with the Blackhawks before adding one goal and five assists in nine playoff games in the Edmonton bubble. Dach averaged 19 minutes and 24 seconds of playoff ice time, which was second among Chicago forwards behind only Patrick Kane.

“He can provide leadership,” said Team Canada head coach André Tourigny. “He had the chance to live a season with guys like Jonathan Toews and he’s been in the bubble as well and that will be really helpful for the rest of the group. ”

The 2021 World Juniors will also be played in an Edmonton bubble, with Canada opening their tournament on Boxing Day against Germany. Hockey Canada has agreed that Dach will return to the Blackhawks if the NHL season begins on January 1.

Team Canada has seven potential returnees from the group that won gold last year in Ostrava, Czech Republic and six – Quinton Byfield, Bowen Byram, Dylan Cozens, Jamie Drysdale, Connor McMichael and Dawson Mercer – were invited to selection camp. The New York Rangers, meanwhile, remain open-minded about the possibility of loaning overall No. 1 pick Alexis Lafreniere, the 2020 World Junior MVP, to Hockey Canada. No country has won consecutive gold medals since Canada racked up five in a row from 2005 to 2009.

“It would mean a lot,” Dach said of a gold medal. “That’s what you’re going to do at this tournament and I think we’ve got the squad to do it. With the guys back, they know what to expect once you step into the tournament, and as a guy who’s spent a full year in the NHL. I will bring this experience. ”

This NHL experience included a lot of time spent with Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, the core of the three most recent Stanley Cup victories in Chicago. In a Zoom chat with TSN, Dach revealed what he’s learned from each guy and the 19-year-old Alberta native also described the improvements he’s been making to his game since eliminating the Blackhawks.

The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

How would you describe your leadership style?

“I’m not afraid to speak up when someone needs to speak up and be a vocal leader, but at the same time, I like to lead by my actions and lead by example. I had a season to learn from guys like Toews, Kane, Seabrook and Keith and I took a lot from these guys and tried to take their best qualities and mix it all up to be my own person. ”

What’s the biggest thing you learned from Toews?

“He just seems to have this knack for saying things when they need to be said and how to say it and how to communicate with everyone. He’s very good at talking to everyone when they first come to the rink in the morning and making sure everyone is okay and figuring out the best way to get each guy to move forward and I think that’s something that I took. He’s very down to earth and likes to make sure everyone is on the same page and that we are all pulling the rope in the same direction. ”

Did you have a moment with him that stood out?

“I spent a lot of time with him on the road and we sat on the plane together several times and just being able to choose his brain was pretty special. I mean, he’s someone I admired as a kid and spending time together with him everyday was awesome. Everything he said, I kind of absorbed it. The most important thing he said was just to be myself, ‘Stay true to who you are and you’ll be fine.’

What about Kane? What struck you the most about him?

“Just his state of mind. Kaner is so motivated and focused. Every time he walks on the ice he wants to be the best player and as a youngster you can see that. He’s one of the first guys on the ice in practice and he’s generally the best player. the last guy to go and I think it’s going a long way and learning from that at a young age is huge. ”

You lived with Seabrook and his family. What did you learn from being around him?

“Seebs was a lot of fun to experience. He’s another guy who knows his job and does it well. He’s a great player and he still has a lot to give to the Blackhawks organization. It was good to see the spirit away from the club. ice rink and being able to balance your home life and hockey and it was a great thing to live with it. Being in a city that I didn’t know very well and being on my own and having to fend for myself it was fun living with him and his family and I can’t thank them enough. ”

What did Seabrook teach you about the mental side of the game and compartmentalization?

“As a young man you try to come into the league and make a difference every night and it’s the best league in the world and you’re not going to be the best player on the ice every night, necessarily. , at an early age. So he was able to mentally help me quit playing on the ice without stressing too much about it. He said it best: “In the playoffs it’s a seven game streak, you can’t focus on a game if you lost it… You have to reset your mind and come to the ice the next day. and be ready. ”

What did you take away from seeing Keith up close?

“He’s different in a good way. I mean, he’s 37 and he’s in phenomenal shape and wins our fitness tests all the time. So that side of it was cool and interesting to see how well he takes care of his body away from the rink. His home gym, I went there several times when we were in Chicago and that explains why he is the player he is. He puts so much time into the game and he’s a hell of a player and it was a lot of fun playing with him this year. ”

What does this home gym look like?

“(Laughs) It’s pretty special. I didn’t really know what was in there [were]. He has a lot of stuff and I don’t think he would want me to give it away. ”

What did you learn from the bubble experience in the NHL?

“The bubble was fun. I liked. I did not have [young] family to worry about so as a young man it was cool spending time with his teammates and i think the most important thing i noticed was the focus of all the guys. You play a game every other day or back to back and seeing the top players from other teams and seeing how they prepare for the games was pretty neat. When these games start to arrive you don’t have a lot of downtime and it’s pretty good just go go go so you have to find your rest when you can and make sure you’re ready to play. Requirement. ”

You didn’t play at World Juniors last year, but you know a lot of these guys pretty well. Who are you excited to be on the ice with again?

“It will be exciting to see Dylan Cozens and Bowen Byram again. The three of us were pretty close throughout the drafting process and all that and they’re good friends of mine. I skate and train with Matthew Robertson so it’s exciting to come back with him. And Kaiden Guhle, who was just drafted, we’ve been training together for the past three years so it will be fun. ”

What has been your focus in training since the end of the season?

“Trying to get to a level where I can feel comfortable in my body and be strong on the puck and add size the right way. I started working with a trainer in Chicago by the name of Ian Mack and he did a phenomenal job of helping me add size in the areas that I needed to add it, but at the same time didn’t not decrease my speed nor hamper my abilities. So I worked closely with him and he was a lot of fun working with. I’m just trying to take my game to the next level. ”

During your end-of-season availability, you said that you wanted to find more confidence in your shot.

“I always found myself being a passing first player and would go back to watch a few games throughout the year and see opportunities to shoot or maybe put a puck in the net that could create a chance for our team and instead I will look for a pass and it won’t pass. Play with Patrick Kane, that’s another thing he’s so good at, is being so deceptive about whether he’s going to pass or shoot. So I got to choose his brain when he makes those decisions and how smart he is and when he makes those calls. So for me to have models like these four guys that we mentioned is a great opportunity. “

Does the subject of the World Juniors often come up around the Blackhawks?

“All Canadians are really squatting and watching him over Christmas time. I still remember watching the gold medal game last year. Brent and I were sitting on the couch watching it and it was an exciting finish. These guys really care. and it’s cool to see. As a growing Canadian child, that’s what you do at Christmas. You are excited for Boxing Day to come watch the World Juniors so being a part of it will be special. “



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