Second City Hockey’s 2020-21 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2020. The rankings are determined by a composite score from three SCH writers and community member, L_B_R. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. All four ballots will be released after the series is completed.
Alex DeBrincat’s struggles during the 2019-20 season were well documented.
DeBrincat burst onto the scene as a rookie, racking up 28 goals in ‘17-18 before soaring even higher to a 41-goal season in ‘18-19. Those numbers came crashing down in ‘19-20, though, with DeBrincat tallying just 18 goals and 27 assists in 70 regular season games.
Outside of those numbers, the most glaring difference in DeBrincat’s statistics during his junior season in the NHL involves shot percentage. As a rookie, DeBrincat converted on 15.5 percent of his shots and that number improved to 18.6 in ‘18-19. His career shot percentage entering the prior season was 17.2.
Then, DeBrincat scored on just 8.7 percent of shots in ‘19-20. He was still shooting at the highest rate of his career — 2.96 per game — but the pucks just weren’t finding the back of the net. One explanation? This deep dive from The Athletic includes comments from DeBrincat, supported by data, that suggests he was shooting from farther away in the ‘19-20 season than he had in the other two (There are also two videos full of DeBrincat’s failed scoring chances that are agonizing to watch but indicative of how snakebit he was last season).
Despite the decrease in goals, though, DeBrincat was still a key contributor the Blackhawks, especially in the postseason. DeBrincat had a pair of nifty primary assists during Game 2 of the Blackhawks qualifying round series against the Oilers:
After scoring his first career postseason goal with an empty-netter in Game 4 of the first-round series against the Golden Knights, DeBrincat tapped one past former teammate Robin Lehner in Game 5 after a smooth series of passes:
That DeBrincat was still finding ways to contribute while enduring the biggest scoring slump of his career suggests that last season’s woes will be an anomaly instead of a harbinger.
DeBrincat will be a lock in Chicago’s top-six for the upcoming season. Finding the right line combination to snap him out of the season-long funk that ensnared DeBrincat during the ‘19-20 season should be high on the list of coach Jeremy Colliton’s preseason objectives.
All advanced statistics from Natural Stat Trick