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Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 for 2018: Alex DeBrincat at No. 2

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The winger was Chicago’s leading goal scorer during his rookie season.

St Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Alex DeBrincat has proven doubters wrong his entire hockey career. The knock on DeBrincat is his small stature at only 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, he’s among the smallest players in the NHL. But that didn’t stop him from showing his scoring prowess on a nightly basis, leading the Chicago Blackhawks in goals scored during his rookie season.

Position: Winger (right handed)

Birth date: Dec. 18, 1997 (20 years old)

Acquired via: 2016 NHL draft — Second round (No. 39 overall)

Most recent stop: Blackhawks — NHL

Size: 5’7, 165 pounds

Contract: Two years with $778,333 salary cap hit

Last year’s ranking: No. 3

Breakdown

DeBrincat was riding high coming into last summer. He was awarded the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year award and Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player of the Year after leading the OHL in points (127), goals (65) and assists (62) in 63 regular-season games. He added 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists) in 22 postseason games. It was his third consecutive 100-point and 50-goal season with the Erie Otters.

Despite his scoring prowess at the junior level, DeBrincat wasn’t suppose to play for the Blackhawks last season — at least not right out of training camp. Many thought he’d see some playing time with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL before taking the ice in the NHL. But, he made the team and scored his first NHL career goal in only his fourth game against Montreal’s Carey Price no less.

And the next month against Anaheim, he became the second youngest player in franchise history to score a hat trick only four days behind Jeremy Roenick. It was the first of three hat tricks during the season, which set a new franchise rookie record and tied Tony Granto for most by a U.S.-born rookie in a season.

DeBrincat finished his rookie season with 52 points, including a team-high 28 goals. Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor (31) and Vancouver’s Brock Boeser (29) were the only rookies with more goals. DeBrincat also found success on the man advantage with six power-play goals. He wasn’t just throwing pucks at the net either, as his 15.5 shooting percentage ranked second on the team to Nick Schmaltz (17.8).

After his NHL season, DeBrincat teammed up with Kane, Schmaltz and Connor Murphy on the United States’ team for the World Championship. DeBrincat found the net once and dished out eight assists in 10 games.

ALL. THE. GOALS.

Prospect analysis Corey Pronman of The Athletic ranked DeBrincat No. 3 in his top 10 players under 23 years old for Chicago behind Schmaltz and defenseman Adam Boqvist. Pronman said DeBrincat’s, “hockey IQ and shot allow him to be so dangerous,” during DeBrincat’s rookie season.

The Athletic’s Hawks beat writer Scott Powers did not ranked DeBrincat in his annual prospect rankings because the winger has already solidified a NHL spot.

What’s next in 2018-19?

DeBrincat will be a top-six winger again next season and likely be on a line with Kane and Schmaltz. Teams will focus on shutting down DeBrincat more next season, so he’ll have to adapt to the added attention. But having players like Kane and Schmaltz on the ice with him should be beneficial for him to create space and scoring chances. There’s also a possibility he could be moved up to the line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews, or even be paired with rookie winger Dylan Sikura at some point.