Chicago Blackhawks fans tend to be worriers when it comes to the future of the team. Scoring has been inconsistent this season and fans want a quick fix via trade. Well, maybe this isn’t the year for the Blackhawks and we all need a little patience, because there is a superb talent in the system. Alex Debrincat.
Debrincat (de-BRINK-it) is one of the hottest young prospects in hockey with quick hands and prolific goal scoring ability. The 19 year old American winger from Farmington Hills, Mi was a second round pick by the Blackhawks in 2016 (#39 overall) and has been tearing up the OHL for three seasons.
Debrincat’s OHL Success
Some people are probably saying, “Big deal. He’s tearing up some rinky dink league.” Wrong. This isn’t minor league hockey, it’s junior hockey and the competition is fierce. These are 16-21 year old players looking to make names for themselves. They’re competing to be drafted or get brought up to the NHL teams they were drafted by.
Debrincat started his career with the Erie Otters at only 16 years old but it took him no time to make his mark. He scored 104 points in 68 games which was good enough for 7th in the league. Of those points, 51 were goals which missed the league lead by only 1.
His 104 points were the most by an OHL rookie since Patrick Kane put up 145 with the London Knights in 2006-2007. An impressive season to say the least, he won the OHL and CHL Rookie Of The Year awards and was named to the OHL Second All-Star Team.
A lot of people were skeptical of his rookie season since he had been playing along with Connor McDavid. To the surprise of some, there was no sophomore slump for Debrincat. He continued to succeed with 101 points in only 60 games.
Identical to the season before, he was seventh in points and second in goals. He also earned himself a spot on the OHL Third All-Star Team.
Drafted By Blackhawks
Following his sophomore season, Debrincat was drafted by the Blackhawks and was in no hurry to slow down.
Some players might get complacent after getting drafted and signed by an NHL team. Not Debrincat. He is putting up MVP type numbers during the 2016-2017 season.
“BUT [THE BLACKHAWKS] TAKE A CHANCE ON GUYS WITH SKILL, AND THAT’S KIND OF MY GAME. OBVIOUSLY I’M NOT A BIG GUY. I LIKE TO PLAY A LITTLE BIGGER THAN I AM, BUT I’M HAPPY THEY GAVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY AND I’M JUST TRYING TO MAKE THE MOST OF IT.”
Through 45 games he has put up 92 points already and has 44 goals which along the way made him the Otters all-time goals leader. He also recently passed former teammate and linemate Connor McDavid for third on their all-time scoring list.
In his last three games he had 11 points in the process of earning his third OHL player of the week honor this season. If Debrincat plays one more season in the OHL at this pace he could break John Tavares’ all-time goal record of 215.
Has Something To Prove
Alex Debrincat is vertically challenged by NHL standards. Standing at only 5’7″ tall and roughly 170lbs, he isn’t an imposing figure on the ice.
He also isn’t the fastest skater to make him elusive to defenders. What he lacks in size and ability with his feet, Debrincat makes up for in smarts, hands and tenacity. Prior to last year’s draft, The Draft Analyst had this to say about him,
“DeBrincat may be small by hockey standards, but he’s a tenacious battler who will get into those tough areas around the cage, as well as throw a hit without deviating from his primary objective of scoring goals. He thinks the game at a very high level, and is the last guy you would catch taking a shift off. You could even classify him as a glutton for punishment because he seemingly thrives when futile attempts are made to bruise and batter him into submission. DeBrincat is the ultimate competitor…”
The lack of size doesn’t deter Debrincat. “It’s something you’ve just got to block out,” he said. “A lot of teams just look for the big guys, and something I’ve always heard is you can’t teach height. That’s something I’ve grown up with.”
Needs To Stay In Control
He has to play with a chip on his shoulder to make up for his size but needs to keep it under control. During his first game in the 2016 WJC he was given a game misconduct game for spearing Canada player Travis Konecny. From there, things didn’t go well for him during the tournament. He quickly went from being paired with Auston Matthews on the first line to the 13th forward.
This misstep in the 2016 WJC may have been a deciding factor when he was cut from the team in 2017. There is little reasoning for cutting one of the most prolific American goal scores from the team besides this. Silly penalties are always easy ways to put yourself on the bench or the couch at home.
Precedence Has Been Set For Small Guys
The NHL is filled with larger than life players but that doesn’t mean a player of Debrincat’s stature can’t excel in the league. The two players that come to mind when thinking about him are Theo Fleury and Martin St. Louis.
Fleury and St. Louis were very skilled players without the prototypical size or fastest feet. They both used great hands, smarts and tenacity to beat their defenders on the way to playing 1,000 games and accumulating 1,000 points.
This goes for the fans and player alike. He’s only 19 years old and needs seasoning. It will most likely be at least one more season until Debrincat will be playing with the Blackhawks.
If you pay attention to the Chicago Cubs you know a slow approach is best for developing a player. Fans were screaming for Kris Bryant and Javier Baez to come up to the big club a full season earlier, but the organization did what it felt best. We should all know how that worked out.
While fans aren’t screaming for Alex Debrincat yet, they probably will if the Blackhawks don’t win the Stanley Cup this season.