Dominik Kubalik is leading the Blackhawks’ youth movement

Matthew Rago, Managing Editor

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The emergence of Blackhawks’ rookie Dominik Kubalik has been a rare bright spot in a season plagued by injuries and inconsistency. As of Jan. 14, Kubalik, 24, sits first among rookies in both even strength and total goals (16 and 18, respectively), ranking two goals ahead of the Buffalo Sabres’ Victor Olofsson in the latter category.

A plethora of injuries have forced the Hawks to prematurely initiate an inevitable youth movement. Alongside Kubalik, rookies such as Alex Nylander, Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach, Dennis Gilbert and Matthew Highmore have played a larger role on a Blackhawks team that began the season with playoff aspirations. However, none of the aforementioned rookies have offered the same offensive impact as Kubalik, who ranks fifth on the Blackhawks with 28 points through 44 games. His 18 goals is good for second on the team.

Kubalik’s offensive contributions have not gone unnoticed. At the end of the Blackhawks’ Thursday night loss to the Nashville Predators, Blackhawks’ color commentator Eddie Olcyzk opined that Kubalik deserved inclusion during the Hawks’ last minute, empty net bid to tie the game.

For those who don’t regularly follow hockey, inclusion on a power play or extra skater unit is a reward usually reserved for the most capable of veterans. To even entertain the idea of including Kubalik, an undrafted free agent signed out of the Czech Republic before the 2019-2020 season, as an extra skater is lofty praise that underscores just how crucial his offensive production has been.

It appears that Kubalik is rapidly solidifying his place in the Blackhawks’ lineup. Over the past six games, Kubalik has scored eight points (7 goals, 3 assists). Over the past 11 games, Kubalik has collected 15 points.

He’s also one of only five Blackhawks to possess a positive plus-minus rating, a statistic which measures how often a player is on the ice when their team scores against how often they are on the ice when their team is scored against.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton has also rewarded Kubalik with first-line minutes alongside Hawks’ captain Jonathan Toews. In their time together, the pair have been dynamic, with Toews commencing his hottest streak of the season with Kubalik occupying the left wing. Unfortunately, the duo have been handicapped by the burden of playing with left winger John Quenneville, who has yet to collect a point in seven games since being recalled from the Rockford IceHogs.

With Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome set to return from injury in the upcoming weeks, it will be interesting to see whether or not Colliton opts to displace Kubalik from the front line.

Based on recent developments, one has to wonder whether Kubalik has done enough to warrant an indefinite stay on the top line. The Blackhawks, mired in a mini-slump that has seen them lose three of the past five games–dropping them six points behind the eighth-place Vancouver Canucks–might opt dedicate the remainder of the season toward investing in the future.

With Nylander failing to make an impact during his abbreviated stay on the top line, perhaps it’s time Colliton affords Kubalik the opportunity to prove his worth. So far, Kubalik has proven himself worthy of the increased load.