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Canadiens Kirby Dach Drawing Comparisons To Mika Zibanejad

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Montreal Canadiens

The Kirby Dach trade between the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Blackhawks is drawing comparisons to the Mika Zibanejad trade from a few years back.

Kirby Dach, a former 3rd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, had shown good promise in his rookie season, but injuries and organizational decisions have hampered his development over the last 18 months. The youngster was a force in junior, combining a rare combination of size and speed, along with elite vision, to be one of the better centers to come out of the dub in a few years. That being said, he hasn’t been able to show that dominance at the NHL level yet on a consistent basis, but the Montreal Canadiens believe they can help him on that path.

“We were looking to get bigger and faster in the middle of the ice. The age component was important so that he can grow with our young core,” said Kent Hughes on why he targeted Kirby Dach. “We spent a lot of time trying to understand who Kirby Dach was that went 3rd pick overall. We spoke to a lot of people in and around the city of Chicago, even to the extent of speaking to Justin Barron.”

Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes have been talking about wanting to sell high and buy low on young assets, and create an environment where development will be key. With the Montreal Canadiens having their own issues with developing 3rd overall picks in the past, revamping their developmental process was crucial to their success. The executive vice president of the Montreal Canadiens, Jeff Gorton, was hired primarily to help the club turn their greatest weakness into an organizational strength. The acquisition of Dach is the first big test in seeing whether the Montreal Canadiens will have more success at developing their youngsters, something Gorton showed he was able to quite well with the New York Rangers.

In fact, the acquisition of Dach has drawn comparisons to the acquisition of Mika Zibanejad by the New York Rangers in the summer of 2016, exactly six years from yesterday. Originally selected at 6th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, Zibanejad was traded by the Ottawa Senators in 2018 to the New York Rangers. The general manager of the New York Rangers at the time was none other than Jeff Gorton. Gorton sought to buy low on a highly talented center that was struggling to find his game consistently and was showing signs of regression in his game.

When Zibanejad moved to the Big Apple, it still took him about three seasons before really taking his game to the next level, but the gamble was certainly worth it in hindsight. Zibanejad improved steadily, year over year, adding new aspects to his game and amplifying his strengths even further. Once he began to trust his shot more, Zibanejad’s confidence reached a new level and he began to unlock much of the potential many saw in him a decade ago. The developmental structure put in New York has allowed them to churn out a few top-end players, like Zibanejad, over the last couple of years, and the Montreal Canadiens are looking to emulate that model.

I’ve said it all along, we’re going to invest money in developing hockey players and try to get the most out of their potential,” said Kent Hughes on his confidence in developing Kirby Dach properly. “Kirby has significant potential, and we’re hopeful that with the Montreal Canadiens, in this environment, that we can bring him along and get him to a point where he’s a pretty special centerman.”

It certainly helps that he’ll be playing under head coach Martin St. Louis, whom NHL sources believe will be exactly the kind of coach Dach needs to reach his top-end potential as a top-6 C.

“Marty may be the best thing to happen for Dach,” an NHL scout told MHN. “His fire, his heart, the motivation he oozes is exactly what this kid needs for his confidence and his game. This kid is gonna kill it under Marty.”

With the Montreal Canadiens buying low on Kirby Dach, the belief is that he could be that can’t-miss No. 2 centre behind Nick Suzuki; thus providing the Montreal Canadiens with a great 1-2 punch. Centres drafted in the top-10 with the potential and ability of Dach or Zibanejad are very rare to come by. It may take time, just like it did for Zibanejad in New York, but the Canadiens believe Dach can become an essential part of the Canadiens’ core for years to come.

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