No. 4: Erik Gustafsson looks like a capable NHL defenseman.
At this point, this is about as high praise as a Chicago Blackhawks defenseman can get.
The only defensemen with a higher +/- than Gustafsson (+2) are the first pairing of Duncan Keith (+3) and Henri Jokiharju (+3). This sounds harsh, but there really aren’t enough negative things that can be said about the Chicago Blackhawks defensemen in the past two years.
Gustafsson has always looked great on paper, however he’s never really been able to pass the eye test. That said, Gustafsson has been a bright spot to start this year.
Gus looks to be finding the balance between jumping in on plays and getting back defensively which has been a challenge in the past. Not only that, but he’s making some pretty beautiful plays while doing it.
According to NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis, coach Joel Quenneville asked Kane if he had to yell for that shot-pass which created the go ahead goal. Kane’s response?
"“I didn’t have to.”"
Gustafsson looks to be slowly emerging as one of the defensemen the Chicago Blackhawks can put on the ice without holding their breaths the entire time.
You have to start somewhere, right?
No. 5: Alex DeBrincat is the real deal.
That sentence certainly isn’t the most well written thing I’ve ever said, nor is it the most groundbreaking decision to come to, however I have no idea how else to sum up the kid’s play.
At 20 years old, DeBrincat is second on the team in both points (12) and goals (7). The player ahead of him in both categories is, you guessed it, Patrick Kane. Additionally, DeBrincat is tied for first in assists (5).
12 points in only 9 games for a kid “too small” to play in the NHL.
His offensive output this season and last certainly ruins the “too small” claim. But, if that doesn’t convince you, take a look at our 5-foot nothing, buck-sixty, 20-year old Alex DeBrincat going after a 200+ pound, 6’3 defenseman.
Josh Manson, the 6’3 buffoon in question, went after DeBrincat with a late hit. Rather than skate back to the bench or look for an enforcer like any 5’7, goal scoring machine could reasonably do, DeBrincat decides to stick up for himself and go after Manson.
He then continued jawing at Manson from the penalty box during the entirety of their two-minute roughing penalties.
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DeBrincat’s release and overall knack for scoring are both unreal, but tonight he displayed guts and a chippy mentality that we haven’t seen an overwhelming amount of from him at the NHL level.
Alex continues to grow into an NHL superstar with every passing game and tonight looked to be just one more step in that process.