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2019 Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Alex DeBrincat at No. 1

Everyone’s favorite Cat tops the list, because of course he does.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Second City Hockey’s 2019-20 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2019. The rankings are determined by a composite score from six SCH writers and more than 70 readers. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. The six SCH writers will make their ballots public after the series is completed.

At this point in time, Alex DeBrincat may be Stan Bowman’s best draft choice. The elite-level goal scorer, who has always possessed a lethal shot and an ability to get to the dirty areas with that shot, was detracted heading into his draft because of his size and skating. Since then, he has proved every team in the NHL wrong for not taking him earlier.

DeBrincat has earned a permanent fixture in the Blackhawks’ lineup as long as he wants it. He increased his goal total from 28 in his rookie season to 41, a .5 goals-per-game pace. There’s no reason to believe he’s done there. His 18.6 percent shooting percentage may seem high, but it’s not an unrepeatable feat for a sniper as lethal as DeBrincat.

Offensively, there’s little left for him to prove, except perhaps winning the award someone of his ilk should eventually win — the Rocket Richard. He was 10 goals behind Alex Ovechkin, and while DeBrincat continues to approach his prime, Ovechkin will continue to grow farther from his. Whether or not this is the year, it’s more than possible DeBrincat is the one who dethrones Ovechkin.

The only area DeBrincat needs to improve is his defense, which is somewhat lacking. But for someone as proficient offensively as DeBrincat, who affects the game as much as he does in the offensive zone, that’s more a want than a need. His skating, which has improved from his draft year, no longer seems out of place on a line with Dylan Strome.

DeBrincat’s NHL success even got someone in his mold, Cole Caufield, taken in the first round of this year’s draft at 15th overall. It seems not many wanted to pass up the opportunity to get the next DeBrincat, angered at the fact they skipped over the first one.

Evolving Hockey

What’s next?

Going for the Rocket. The only thing DeBrincat hasn’t done besides win an award is make the playoffs and make an impact in the postseason, so that’s probably on the list as well. Then, the Blackhawks will need to sign DeBrincat to an extension — one that’s going to be around six years in the $42-45 million range. But to sign DeBrincat long term, it’ll be well worth it.