Blackhawks Prospects

Chicago Blackhawks’ Forward Alex DeBrincat Is Organization’s Future

By Mario Tirabassi
Sep 30, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Alexander DeBrincat (23) and Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Tom Kuhnhackl (34) battle for the puck during the second period in a preseason hockey game at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Alexander DeBrincat (23) and Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Tom Kuhnhackl (34) battle for the puck during the second period in a preseason hockey game at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Blackhawks made a bold move when they drafted Alex DeBrincat

On June 25, the Chicago Blackhawks traded two-time Stanley Cup champion Andrew Shaw to the Montreal Canadiens for two second-round draft pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

While the move was met with some pessimism from fans, considering Shaw was one of the most popular players in the last half decade, the move was considerably more favorable for Chicago as the prospects selected seem to have high ceilings for their potential NHL futures.

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Chicago received the 39th and 45th overall picks and selected defenseman Chad Krys with the 45th pick and forward Alex DeBrincat with the 39th pick.

Krys, a product of the U.S. Development Program, is five games into his college career at Boston University and has two points as the No. 4 ranked Terriers are 3-2-0.

DeBrincat, entering his third season in the Ontario Hockey League with the Erie Otters, is having one heck of a year just 10 games into the season.

  • Quick stats for DeBrincat – 10 GP -12G, 12A, 24Pts, +20

So, yeah, pretty impressive. DeBrincat, along with his Otters teammate and fellow 2016 NHL Draft pick Taylor Raddysh (second round, 58th overall to Tampa Bay) are first and second in points in the OHL through the first dozen games of the season. In fact, DeBrincat has only been held off the scoresheet once this season.

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DeBrincat making his own name

In the 2014-15 season, DeBrincat made his OHL debut playing alongside future top-three NHL draft picks Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome in Erie.

In that first year, DeBrincat tallied 104 points (51G, 53A), led the team in goals and finished third in scoring on the team behind Strome and McDavid. He followed that up in the 2015-16 season, posting another 100+ point season with 101 points (51G, 50A), leading the team in goals and finishing second on the team in scoring behind Strome.

Many felt DeBrincat’s production was helped in large part to his time with McDavid and Strome. Having back-to-back seasons in the OHL with 100+ points and 50+ goals is nothing to scoff at, but it couldn’t be ignored who he was playing with.

The second-round pick by the Blackhawks was a high-value pick, and many scouts believed that if DeBrincat wasn’t undersized, he would have been a lottery pick in June’s Entry Draft. But questions surrounded him heading into this OHL season and if he would be able to put up the same kind of production now that he is the veteran scorer on the Otters with Strome and McDavid in the NHL.

The answer has been a quick and astounding yes as DeBrincat, through 10 games, is on pace for 156 points this season.

The OHL season scoring record is 177 points by Doug Gilmour with the Cornwall Royals in the 1982-83 season. No OHL player has scored 150 points in a season since Corey Locke did it with the Ottawa 67’s in 2002-03, and the highest scoring OHL players in the last decade were Rob Schremp in 2005-06 and Patrick Kane in 2006-07, both with the London Knights at 145 points. Also, Schremp and Kane are the highest-scoring American-born players in OHL history.

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If DeBrincat can continue on his pace, he’d be making some big waves in the OHL history books. (Side note: Raddysh is on pace for 159 points this season. Wow.)

NHL debut … when?

With all this being said about DeBrincat, why is he not already making an impact with the Blackhawks?

Going back to the many scouting reports on DeBrincat heading into this last summer’s NHL Entry Draft, he is listed at 5-foot-7, 170 pounds, and even in a league that is beginning to trend towards speed and skill rather than size, there is still value in having a player not be that small.

Players like Johnny Gaudreau (5-9, 150 lbs.) and Tyler Johnson (5-8, 183 lbs.) are making big names for themselves, so why no DeBrincat?

Not just yet.

The 2016-17 season is a transitional kind of year for the Blackhawks. They still can find similar success of the past half decade, but there are going to be plenty of learning opportunities for the young players they now have in their regular roster.

While it is beneficial to have rookies learn the NHL ropes together and build a new “core,” there can’t be so much youth on a team looking to contend for the Stanley Cup.

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Players like Nick Schmaltz and Gustav Forsling, both 20-years-old, had nowhere to go in the organization and so far have proved their worth at the NHL level for the Blackhawks. Expect the same for DeBrincat in 2017-18.

He’ll be 19 years old in December and eligible for one more year in the OHL, but if he continues to produce at the pace he has in the past and is currently on, what more does he need to prove?

What more could DeBrincat need to develop without playing against higher competition? Sure, he could play in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs, but by the looks of his skill level right now, a potential AHL stint would be short-lived.

The bottom line is that DeBrincat is the future of the Blackhawks franchise. He still has time to grow and mature physically, but within the next few years, DeBrincat jersey sales will be in demand at the Blackhawks Store because he will be lighting up the NHL.

That may be a bold prediction, but there is only so long a tie the Blackhawks can rely on aging players like Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and, yes, even Kane and Jonathan Toews, both playing in their 10th NHL season before their 30th birthdays.

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Yes, the youth on the team right now — Schmaltz, Forsling, Vince Hinostroza, etc — are hopefully going to be big parts of the future. But it’s DeBrincat who should be making fans really salivate for the future of the organization.

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