Dominik Kubalik has gone from being a Chicago Blackhawks discard to an ace in the hole for the Detroit Red Wings.
The 27-year-old Czech forward netted 62 goals over three seasons and the Blackhawks still decided not to offer him a qualifying offer last season. He signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a depth player. Today, Kubalik is expected to be on his new team’s top line when it plays the Blackhawks tonight in Chicago
“When I noticed I’m not going to be in Chicago anymore, I was kind of looking for another opportunity and especially somewhere a team would want me as a player,” Kubalik said. “That’s kind of what happened.”
An argument can be made that Kubalik is the biggest surprise among general manager Steve Yzerman’s offseason acquisitions. Kubalik scored 30 goals as a rookie, but his production has declined since then. The early projection for Kubalik in Detroit was he would play on the third line and be someone who moved up when there were injuries.
That’s what occurred. He was moved to the top line After Tyler Bertuzzi. Kubalik boasts three points in his first three games. Kubalik has shown his skillful side. Coach Derek Lalonde said Kubalik is a better skater than he realized before the Red Wings acquired him. At $2.5 million a season for the next two seasons, Kubalik is tracking as a bargain performer.
“He’s helped our 5-on-5 game with his skating,” Lalonde said. “He’s getting above, keeping plays alive on the forecheck. He’s turning tracks into offensive because of his skating.”
Kubalik says it has been easy playing with Larkin.
“He’s fast, smart, he can do everything, which is easier for me to figure it out and do my job,” Larkin said. “So we had a lot of talks and I think every period, every shift it’s getting better. I hope it’s going to be better again (at Chicago).”
Joining fellow Czech players Filip Zadina and Filip Hronek seems to have helped his transition to a new team. But he came primarily for the opportunity.
“I’m happy to be here, obviously,” Kubalik said. “The team tried to make another step forward, which is always a good sign. I’m real happy I could be a part of it.”
He said he is excited about returning to Chicago for tonight’s game (8:30 EST)
“I’m kind of happy,” Kubalik said. “I already went there in the preseason but after two years it’s always nice to play against them, so I’m excited and hopefully it’s going to be a good game for us.”
Kubalik said his own game has benefited from Detroit’s improved depth. “I think overall as a team we’ve played pretty well so that usually helps for individual players, too,” he said. “And we’re scoring goals. For the confidence and everything it’s so much easier. It’s been good but it’s only been three games so we got to keep going.”