After taking a step back last year, can Blackhawks winger Alex Debrincat regain his shooting touch and recapture his scoring magic?
Alex DeBrincat scored 127 points in 63 games for the Erie Otters in 2016-2017, yet expectations ran a bit low for the Blackhawks prospect. Yes, it was clear that he could put the puck in the back of the net at a lower level, but his small side would surely hold him back, right?
It didn’t take long for the diminutive one to prove the naysayers wrong. As a rookie, DeBrincat put up 52 points in 82 games; he came back the next year, avoiding the sophomore slump, and notched 76 points in an 82 game season. Then, the 2019-2020 season proved to be a rough one for the Cat. Goals were difficult to come by and he dipped to just 18 goals, 45 total points, in a 70 game season.
It doesn’t take much digging to identify the root cause of the lack of production. In DeBrincat’s spectacular sophomore season, he recorded a more than respectable shooting percentage of 18.6% on 220 shots. That was slightly better than the 15.5% he tallied in his rookie year. Last year, Alex dropped to a shooting percentage of 8.7% on 207 shots.
The heartening stat here is the total number of shots. While a lot of shots didn’t hit the back of the net, he didn’t drop in shot production. In 2018-2019, Alex averaged 2.68 shots per game on a total of 220 shots. Last year, he averaged 2.96 shots per game on 207 shots. If the old adage that shooters have to shoot holds true, DeBrincat will breakthrough if he keeps putting it on net.
The keys to a resurgent Alex DeBrincat in 2021 are simple.
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First, he must increase his shot production. In the past two seasons, Patrick Kane’s shooting percentages were 12% and12.9%. The big difference is that Kane takes a lot more shots. This holds true for others as well. Alex Ovechkin, for instance, has had shooting percentages between 8.7% and 15.4% over his career which aren’t much different than DeBrincat. However, going along with his sniper ability from the dot is the fact that he takes twice as many shots as The Cat. Simply put, DeBrincat must keep it simple and put the puck on net.
The second factor that can help Alex DeBrincat this year is really out of his hands. Coach Jeremy Colliton needs to keep DeBrincat on scoring lines. Last year, DeBrincat found himself on the bottom six frequently throughout the year.
As a result, his offensive zone start percentage dropped. He also increased his “hits” battling on the bottom lines, nearly doubling the previous year. If DeBrincat is going to regain his confidence, he should be a consistent member of a scoring line with Strome and Kane, not a grinder line. He should also be on the first team power play across the ice from Kane. You simply don’t help a shooter regain his scoring touch by limiting his opportunities.
A little consistency on a scoring line, power-play time on the first unit, and an emphasis on increasing shot totals will bring the Cat back to where we know he should be, so rest easy Blackhawks fans. Alex DeBrincat will be back this year and better than ever.