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Dach ready to push for a spot on Blackhawks' roster

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Kirby Dach grew up idolizing Jonathan Toews so you can't blame the 18-year-old for being a bit nervous when he met the Blackhawks captain for the first time.

"It was weird," Dach recalled. "We were at development camp and just kind of crossed paths. I was a little bit tongue-tied and didn't know what to say to him at first, but he's an awesome person. To be able to learn from him at the start of my career is going to be awesome."

Dach, like Toews a third overall pick by Chicago, was mesmerized by the centre's rise up the ranks.

"Obviously, the World Junior shootouts kind of come to mind," Dach said when asked for his favourite Toews moments. "And then that one move he had, it was his first year against Colorado, he came down the wall and split the D and kind of just told the league that he was here and that him and Kaner were going to take over."

Based on how Dach looks this week, he may be about to announce his arrival to the professional hockey world. The Saskatoon forward scored twice and added a nice assist in Canada's win against the United States on Tuesday.

"It's never easy for bigger guys to move that well," said linemate Joe Veleno, "and I think he has that rare skill. And even his skill level, the way he sees the game, stripping the puck and keeping the puck in tight areas, it’s really surprising."

"Myself and my brother have always kind of been bigger and lankier guys," said Dach, who stands six-foot-four. "So we knew to be able to play at the next level right away we have to be good skaters and strong on our skates so we always worked one-on-one with our skating coaches growing up and it’s helped us out tremendously."

"Once that big body gets going he's pretty lethal," said Team Canada assistant coach Mitch Love, the head coach in Saskatoon. "He uses his body to protect pucks well. One real underrated thing in his game is his stick, his ability to strip guys of pucks and defend with his stick, he does a really good job of that and that will make him a really good, complete, 200-foot centre."

Love describes Dach as being an 18-year-old who already acts like a 25-year-old professional.

"His elevation in the playoffs last year as a young man who hadn't played playoff hockey since he was a youth player, it was pretty special," Love said. "He was very competitive. Typically that time of year you need your best players to be your best players and he was clearly that and that was something really special to watch."

Whether it's at the World Juniors or in the NHL, it seems likely Dach is prepared to meet the moment. Toews, for his part, seems to think Dach will be joining him in Chicago sooner than later.

"Obviously there's some true talent there," Toews said during a convention for Blackhawks fans last month. "Everyone that watched him in the WHL playoffs this year said he was dominant, playing through teams matching up against him. I think he's one of those guys that probably could step in this year and definitely cause a stir in training camp. I'm excited to see what he can do. I'm not trying to add any pressure on him, but I........