Dominik Kubalik exploded on the scene as a rookie for the Chicago Blackhawks last season. The 25-year-old Czech-native scored 30 goals in the shortened 65-game campaign and finished third in voting for the Calder Trophy. This season, Kubalik has continued to light the lamp, but it's his overall play that has been most impressive.
In 2019-20, Kubalik quickly became a household name for Blackhawks fans. His first career goal came in his second game and he never looked back.
Kubalik proceeded to score a remarkable 30 goals and logged five multi-goal games, including his first career hat trick in a 5-2 win over the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning.
His goal-scoring ability continued to shine in the Blackhawks' Qualifying Round series against the Edmonton Oilers. In the four-game series, Kubalik scored three goals and notched another against the Golden Knights in the first round.
It was evident that the Blackhawks and Stan Bowman had made the right choice when they traded a fifth-round pick for Kubalik. He has a knack for scoring goals and can finish from nearly anywhere on the ice. Of his 30 goals, 26 of them came at even strength.
Like most players come to find out, scoring goals consistently in the NHL is difficult. When the scoring slumps come, which they always do, players need to find other ways to be effective.
2021 Sophomore Season
Kubalik's sophomore season had much anticipation. Coming off a 30-goal rookie season, most "experts" would predict a "sophomore slump". But just as Alex DeBrincat has shown (he scored 41 goals in his second season), it doesn't always happen.
Kubalik has continued to find the back of the net. In 50 games this season, Kubalik has 16 goals (12 even strength, four on the power play).
But what Kubalik has provided this season in his playmaking ability has been just as impressive.
His 16 assists are the third-most on the team while his ten helpers on the power play is the second-most.
Kubalik is also using his big frame of 6-foot-2, 180 lbs to protect the puck along the boards and in gritty areas. With his goal-scoring touch, Kubalik could be a perimeter player and still produce, but to be successful, players need to compete in all areas of the ice.
His physicality this season has also helped him in his role on the third and fourth lines. Kubalik has recorded 53 hits this season, the third-most by a forward, and has been credited with 12 takeaways.
Lastly, Kubalik also hasn't sacrificed his play defensively while trying to provide offense. He has been on-ice at even strength for just 25 goals against, fewer than teammates Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Hagel.
Kubalik's two-year, $7.4 million contract expires after the 2021-22 season when he becomes a restricted free agent. There is no doubt that he will be asking for more in his next contract and the Blackhawks will want to keep him.
Kubalik has quickly become a main piece in the Blackhawks' plans. His 46 goals in the past two seasons only trail Patrick Kane, and his 78 points are the third-most over that time.
His ability to play a complete game will allow him to continue to improve and provide much more than just scoring.