In Part III of this series, we’re to discuss what Alex DeBrincat has accomplished with the Chicago Blackhawks and what the future will look like with him on the roster
At the end of the season, GM Stan Bowman addressed one of the most important schemes to rebuilding the Chicago Blackhawks to elite status. That being, maintaining a youthful core and further developing the young talents currently on the roster.
The top three players to be named in that category are Nick Schmaltz, Vinnie Hinostroza and Alex DeBrincat. Blackhawk Up has had two other writers contribute to different stories on these young players. Aaron Goldschmidt wrote about Nick Schmaltz in Part I, and Tim Martens wrote about Vinnie Hinostroza in Part II. For Part III, I will be addressing DeBrincat’s role, raw talent, and probable future on the team.
There was one other player on the team besides Patrick Kane who truly opened eyes and turned heads. That player was the rookie DeBrincat. The Cat, as fans call him, completed this season playing all 82 games. During the course of the year, he had a team-high 28 goals and tied with Jonathan Toews and Nick Schmaltz with 52 points on the year.
Rookies, unless you’re a top pick in a draft, should not play this well. That’s where the kicker comes in. The Blackhawks were blessed to practically steal DeBrincat from the rest of the NHL, drafting him from the Lake Erie Otters as the 39th pick in round two of the 2016 NHL draft.
Da Windy City
The largest component to DeBrincat’s game is his ability to make plays in crowded areas of the ice. What I mean by that is, DeBrincat finds a way to make a play when no one thinks it’s possible. To exemplify this, let’s break down his first career hat-trick versus the St. Louis Blues.
The first goal is a great one and perfectly describes how he makes a play out of nothing. Coming out of the right circle, he has the opportunity to do two things:
A. Shoot low, aim for either Brandon Saad or Duncan Keith to clean up the rebound.
B. Pass across ice to Keith and stop by the net to clean up the rebound yourself, if it comes to you.
However, he chooses neither option and goes for what he see’s fit. He understands his heavy release and unpredictable shot, so he decides to rifle the puck towards the net and get’s rewarded with his first goal of the game.
For his second goal, DeBrincat shows a lot of intelligence. Call it luck, but he always seems to find a way to fit the puck in certain areas. He’s shown on a two-on-one with Tomas Jurco, who wiffs on the pass across to DeBrincat. Shortly after, he gets the puck in front of the net and simply hops the puck off of Jake Allen and into the net for a 2-0 lead.
No only was the play incredible, but it represented a great example of hockey I.Q. He realizes that the period is coming to an end and that a play needed to be made. Even if his attempt fails, the team will get an offensive face-off in the final minute, where they’d be able to keep on the pressure and hope to go into the intermission with a secure lead.
As for his last goal, it’s quite obvious that he’s a smart player. While all attention is focused on the puck in the right circle, DeBrincat decides to take an alternate route to become an option in front of the net. He is seen skating illusively behind the net, completely free from any Blues player. While the play starts to focus towards the net, he allows a perfect pass to be made from his teammates to net his third hat trick of the year and put the ‘Hawks ahead late in the game.
These three plays all show how smart and delicate DeBrincat is on the ice, with or without the puck. He plays a versatile game with a sense of hockey I.Q that you wouldn’t find in a rookie. Either way, we’re definitely not second guessing it.
Where does DeBrincat fit in?
DeBrincat has a clear role on this team: score, score and score. Players like himself are one of a kind. They only come around every so often and when they do, they need to be used very carefully by the coaching staff so they don’t get overused, pressured, and lost. A big misconception after a rookie has a great year is that they’ll be ready for the next one. However, that’s not always the case.
DeBrincat can still develop. He has great talent, but he’s only 20 years old. There’s so much room for improvement, and if the coaching staff decides to take their time and let him pace his uprising as a possible NHL great, we’re in the clear. It’s pretty obvious that the Blackhawks are going to utilize DeBrincat a hell of a lot more next season, especially with the change we’re going for.
The Blackhawks are going to put DeBrincat in the top six, allowing him to clock in more ice-time and achieve more success with his line mates. However, I believe the team is going to want to focus further on his play-making game, and not just scoring. With his raw talent, speed, and I.Q, there’s no doubt he can turn into a point producing powerhouse on the ice.
Whether that doesn’t happen for a few years or not, we’ll still take DeBrincat as he is. We cannot rush these things on the roster, as this is a total team effort. But I wouldn’t worry, we have a great chance to ignite this kid all over the roster if we really needed to.
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What will DeBrincat demand?
Luckily, the Blackhawks have DeBrincat locked in until 2019-20 season. However, that’s a lot of room for him to grow and become a top tier player, as that is definitely possible. Based on his rookie year, he’s probably going to have a rising point production throughout the years. He’ll possibly become a multiple 30-goal scorer before we have to sign him again.
Being optimistic, I believe he’ll become a $2.5-3M a year player. However, this is a player they’ll want to keep longterm. So if DeBrincat truly becomes the allstar we expect, we should foresee a long term deal with a $3-3.5M yearly average. But, that doesn’t have to be contested for a few years.
The Blackhawks will have to address many options on the roster with current defensive contracts before they focus on DeBrincat. However, they’ll have to be careful not to break the budget, as we have before.