The Journey: Potential 9-Game Warriors and Other Extended Auditions

Brayden Olafson


The nine-game warrior – A term I’m officially coining today to describe the players who fit into that exciting bubble between junior hockey and the NHL. The nine-game term refers to the threshold of games that junior eligible players can dress for before kickstarting their entry-level-contracts. Playing only nine games before a player is returned to junior allows a team to postpone the clock starting on their bargain deal, all while extending their audition, and therefore exposure to real NHL-level competition.

We already have a good idea of some players who will undoubtedly receive some kind of an audition to open the NHL season. That list will likely include Kirby Dach, Bowen Byram, Noah Dobson, and Barrett Hayton. Today, however, I also want to discuss some of the players who might surprise. As we near the conclusion of the NHL preseason, and yes this is still ONLY preseason, we’ve seen the likes of a few young players who seem surprisingly ready to make an impact – let’s assess their chances.

Editor's note: Following submission of this article, Byram and Cozens have since been returned to their respective WHL teams for the 2019-20 season. We are keeping this in to reflect Brayden's thoughts while the two were at NHL training camps.

Kirby Dach – CHI

Although some people may have been caught off guard by the Blackhawks selection of Kirby Dach at third overall, Chicago GM Stan Bowman maintains that the team selected the best player available. Dach is currently sitting out with concussion-like symptoms that were incurred during his debut at the Traverse City Tournament. The Hawks are eager to get the 6-4 centerman into their lineup for assessment purposes, so much so that they’ll be willing to carry him on their roster through to the regular season. While his junior team in Saskatoon will surely miss the offense that he can provide, it’s possible that the Hawks retain Dach late into October, or even further. His skill and skating ability are extremely high; however, consistency of effort and production have been a question. If the former dips to an unacceptable level, the Blades will have him back before long. 

Chances of starting the regular season – 75%