Blackhawks Prospects

Chicago Blackhawks Have A Fearless Sniper In Alex DeBrincat

By Aaron Goldschmidt
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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Q&A with Mark Scheig on Alex DeBrincat

1. Alex DeBrincat recently became the Erie Otters’ all-time leading scorer. What can you tell us about his style of play that has made him so productive in the OHL?

MS: Two things stand out to me: his skill and his fearlessness.

He scores a ton of his goals from the slot because he’s not afraid to attack the dangerous areas. That actually makes his small size an advantage, because he can skate into areas that other, bigger players can’t get to. Once he gets to the slot, the puck usually finds him.

While all the attention goes to his scoring, he’s just as good a passer. Teams have to defend against his shot, so it leaves other options open. He usually finds them.

There were a lot of questions early about the Connor McDavid impact.  McDavid (who previously played alongside DeBrincat with Erie) himself admitted that DeBrincat “is a great player regardless of who he’s with.” This has proven true to this point. His skill offsets his size.

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2. DeBrincat was cut from a Team USA squad that went on to win gold in the most recent World Junior Championship in Toronto. With such a high offensive skill set, why do you think he was left off the team?

MS: Ultimately, DeBrincat’s exclusion from the WJC was more about the kind of team that Team USA wanted.  Everyone knows he can score. He’s underrated defensively. But Team USA made it a point to have size, something DeBrincat doesn’t have.

The team also likely recalled the prior season and saw his limited production against bigger players. He also did himself no favors by getting that early game misconduct. DeBrincat can occasionally lose his cool in big moments.

The other factor is the whole CHL thing. There weren’t many CHL players on this roster. The management has a knack for favoring NCAA players. Hey, it worked this time. The U.S. won, and DeBrincat is still a great player.

3. Last year, DeBrincat was drafted by the Blackhawks 39th overall in the second round. This could be a steal for the ’Hawks if his skill translates to the pro level. Why do you think he fell out of the first round?

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MS: He fell out of the first round because of his size. Teams didn’t want to be the one to gamble in the first round and then see him flop. The Blackhawks absolutely got a steal, as his skills are top-10 caliber.

I also think teams thought his defensive game given his size was a concern in such a low-scoring league. He’s improved on that vastly. The Otters are among the best defensive teams in the league. They always have the puck. That’s as good a defense as there is.

4. DeBrincat had the luxury of playing on a line with former top prospects Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome. Was his success been a product of their performance or has he proved he can produce on his own?

MS: He can produce on his own. I’ll put it this way. Early in the season, his center was 16-year-old rookie Allan McShane. McShane is now in Oshawa as the Otters traded for Anthony Cirelli.

But DeBrincat’s center was a rookie, and it didn’t stop him from producing. He’s a legitimate threat to score every time he touches the puck, no matter who is out there.

5. Tell us about DeBrincat’s personality and if you believe Chicago is a good fit for him.

MS: Alex is one of the nicest kids out there. That goes under-reported because many recall his game misconduct at the WJC. As someone who interacts with him a lot, he’s always nice and accommodating to me personally and to the media.

I do feel like he’ll fit in Chicago in a couple of years. I personally see him in Rockford before anything. Imagine if he and his skill set get to play on a wing with Toews. Scary good stuff there.

Next: Blackhawks Alumnus Martin Havlat Retires

Mark Scheig writes for The Hockey Writers and covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters, and OHL’s Erie Otters.  You can follow him at @THWMark and  read his blog here.

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