When the Chicago Blackhawks took the ice on Saturday night, they were joined by a surprise addition. Young star forward Kirby Dach had been activated from the Long-Term Injured Reserve and had re-joined the lineup. Dach had not played yet this season and, while he had been skating with the team, the Blackhawks had made no indication prior to their pregame announcement that Dach was close to a return. Not only was Dach apparently ready for action, but he seamlessly returned to his second-line center role, logging 20:08 time on ice – the third-highest mark among Blackhawks forwards in the game.
Dach re-joining Chicago before the end of March marks a shocking departure from his initial recovery timeline. The talented pivot was injured back in December, suffering a fractured right wrist during one of Team Canada’s World Junior Championship pre-tournament scrimmages. If he had been able to avoid surgery, the timeline for a return was believed to be just four-to-eight weeks. However, the Blackhawks announced on December 28 that Dach had in fact undergone surgery and was instead looking at a four-to-five month timeline. Yet, less than three months later he made his triumphant return to Chicago to begin his second NHL season.
Dach, 20, continues to exceeds expectations in every facet of his pro career. The third overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, Dach was considered a reach by a few pundits who believed that Chicago had passed up on drafting superior options at forward or addressing a greater need with a top defenseman. Dach proved his critics wrong when he impressed in training camp and cracked the Blackhawks’ Opening Night roster. Not only that, but Dach also turned in 23 points in 64 games in his rookie campaign, topped off by an impressive playoff debut. The potential long-term loss of Dach this season was a devastating blow for the Blackhawks, but now here he is at least a month early on his recovery timeline and looking to take another step forward in his development. With Chicago surprisingly still clinging to a playoff spot in the Central Division, Dach is a major boost to their postseason hopes.