clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NHL Draft 2016: Blackhawks' haul looks strong with Alex DeBrincat at the top

New, comments

GM Stan Bowman did a good job replenishing the farm system with nine draft picks, including highly regarded 18-year-old winger Alex DeBrincat, on Saturday.

Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images

Just a few weeks ago, the Chicago Blackhawks didn't even have a first- or second-round pick. On Saturday, the team drafted forward Alex DeBrincat, ranked No. 15 in the entire class by ESPN's Corey Pronman, as part of a huge influx of talent to the organization.

Putting aside any feelings about how GM Stan Bowman acquired three second-round picks, it's impressive what he managed to do here. Bowman clearly targeted high-upside prospects, and based on pre-draft evaluations, it sounds like he hit his mark in Buffalo.

DeBrincat, 18, was widely considered one of the best scoring prospects in this year's draft after putting up absurd numbers in the OHL. If you can't actually land a first-round pick, nabbing a hot name that falls to you is the next best thing.

And make no mistake, DeBrincat is a major addition to this organization. After a monster debut season with the Erie Otters next to Connor McDavid in 2014-15, the shifty winger continued racking up stats in 2015-16. He actually improved his points per game total from 1.52 PPG (104 in 68 games) to 1.68 PPG (101 in 60). That's ridiculous production, and he proved that it wasn't simply the result of playing next to a future No. 1 overall pick.

The only real downside is DeBrincat's size: he's listed at 5'7 and 163 pounds, which is downright small for an NHL player. Even if he adds a bit of bulk while developing, most opposing blue liners will still dwarf him. And defensively, that lack of size will always limit DeBrincat, so his two-way upside is held back to some degree.

With that said, we're talking about a potentially elite offensive prospect. Pronman describes DeBrincat as a "highly-skilled winger who shows above-average to high-end speed, puck skills, vision and finishing skill." He also praises the 18-year-old's elite hockey sense and says there's a "real tenacity to his game."

DeBrincat is a high-upside prospect, and that's something the Blackhawks badly needed. Following the trade of Teuvo Teravainen, Nick Schmaltz is pretty much the only young forward in the organization who presently projects as a top-sixer. Tyler Motte had a breakout 2015-16 season and increased his stock but he still looks more like a good third-liner than someone destined to score 25-30 goals a season one day.

But with DeBrincat, that's the kind of potential we're talking about. His OHL stats are ridiculous and the scouts love his skill level. Usually you don't get a prospect with this kind of talent at No. 39 overall, but DeBrincat's size clearly hindered his stock and it gave Chicago the chance to take a very smart gamble on a player who easily could've landed in the first round.

And DeBrincat isn't the only player Bowman drafted who's got upside.

Chad Krys (No. 45 pick) is a puck-moving defenseman coming off a disappointing year but he's heading to Boston University and has a lot of potential as a power play quarterback and creator. Russian forward Artur Kayumov (No. 50 pick) is similar to DeBrincat: undersized but otherwise super exciting. Kayumov is an elite skater and Pronman calls him a "game-breaking offensive talent." That's not a description you can use with most of the prospects Chicago already had, and man, it thrills me reading it.

To put it simply, I really like what the Blackhawks did Saturday. Even if there's a good deal of risk in these prospects, and some of them might fizzle out completely, the team needed to take some shots at adding top-level players to the system. A guy like Krys might not work out if he can't tighten up his defensive game and show better hockey sense, but you can dream a bit there. Third-round pick Wouter Peeters has an utterly delightful name, and he's also a 6'5 goalie joining the KHL next season at age 18 and could become a thing one day. DeBrincat, Krys, Kayumov and Peeters aren't guys with middling upside, even if they're a tad riskier. That's precisely what the system needed.