The Chicago Blackhawks recently acquired Dominik Kubalik from the Los Angeles Kings. In an effort to learn more about him, we talked to journalist Damiano Cansani.
It was a low risk, high reward decision from the Chicago Blackhawks front office, and I imagine it won’t be the last they make before the trade deadline hits.
The deal was the Chicago Blackhawks 2019-fifth round pick in exchange for the Czech Republican left winger. Dominik Kubalik was taken in the 7th round back in 2013 by the Los Angeles Kings. He’s only 23 and currently plays for HC Ambrì-Piotta in Switzerland’s National League.
For his statistics we’ll take a quick peak into Stephen Yatsushiro’s most recent recap of the trade:
"“While playing for HC Ambri Piotta, Kubalik is the league’s leading scorer with 43 points, off 18 goals and 25 assists in 37 games. Last season with HC Ambri Piotta, he scored 27 points off 10 goals and 17 assists. Per his stats listed by EliteProspects.com, he has been scoring at or above a point per game for the past three seasons.”"
Averaging a point or more a game over three seasons is pretty darn impressive.
To learn a bit more about their most recent acquisition, I talked to Damiano Cansani. Cansani doesn’t describe himself as a journalist or even an expert on hockey. That said, his work writing for the Leading Sport blog (which he co-created) that focuses on the two most popular sports in Switzerland, hockey and football, suggests otherwise.
Cansani’s passion for and knowledge of Swiss hockey cannot be understated, making him the perfect guy to provide a different perspective on Kubalik.
1 – Scoring ability
Of every aspect of Kubalik’s game, Cansani seemed most impressed by his scoring ability.
"“Immediately when he arrived in the National League (Switzerland) during last season, we could see that he’s got something special,” said Cansani. “He’s very fast, an excellent skater, and he can score a lot. I mean, he’s a real sniper!”"
A phrase like “a real sniper” is exciting to read as a Blackhawks fan. One of their biggest issues offensively is depth scoring so an addition of a guy like this is encouraging. Ideally, he could make a transition to the NHL next season or the year following much like his former OHL teammate Dominik Kahun did during training camp this season.
2 – Leadership
While the Blackhawks certainly value Kubalik’s offensive ability, Cansani pointed out an interesting quality he’s noticed while watching Kubalik in person this season.
"“He became a leader on the ice even though he is only 23 and that’s impressive. He’s really humble and a fast learner. His attitude is great, even though he’s the star of the team, he doesn’t act like one.”"
Not a lot of players are good leaders at a young age making a guy like that special. If his talent can transition to the NHL level I’m sure those leadership skills will be valued in a Blackhawks locker room only getting younger as time goes on.
3 – Defense
Another part of Kubalik’s game which Cansani touched on was his defense. If you’re a player who leads the league in scoring while being a leader on your team, it’d be easy to take shifts off defensively.
For example, Patrick Kane is so good offensively that he’s more or less allowed to slack on defense. Kubalik has a similar value for his club, however he doesn’t let up playing in his own zone.
"“In fact, he doesn’t slack off when it comes to defending and this season the coach is also using him during PK situations,” said Cansani."
One of the quickest paths to the NHL is being able to kill penalties. Multiple former AHL players have come up quickly from the Rockford IceHogs simply because they could kill penalties. If Kubalik can make that a strength in his game he will only increase his chances at cracking the NHL.
4 – Room to improve
Kubalik certainly sounds like a special talent, but there’s a reason he’s playing in Switzerland and not in the NHL (no offense, National League fans). Playing with some consistency on a shift to shift basis, according to one scout, has been an issue for him.
Additionally, Cansani identified another place for improvement, saying:
"“To have success in the NHL he should improve his physical play even though I’m very curious to see him in smaller rinks.”"
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That said, Cansani truly believes that he will be successful at the NHL level for the Chicago Blackhawks. Not only that, but he told me he doesn’t anticipate him playing in solely a bottom six role. Rather, he believes that Kubalik has the potential to play a key role on an NHL team.
For more on Dominik Kubalik, check out Cansani’s most recently published article about him, here.