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2021 Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Alex DeBrincat is a natural No. 1

DeBrincat regained form in 2021 and was arguably the Blackhawks’ best forward.

Nashville Predators v Chicago Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat of the Chicago Blackhawks passes against the Nashville Predators at the United Center in Chicago.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Second City Hockey’s 2021-22 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2021. The rankings are determined by a composite score from all four SCH writers. 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 had a disappointing 2020 season that saw him fall behind Kirby Dach on the last Top 25 Under 25 list. With Dach injured at the start of the 2021 season and DeBrincat healthy, there was an opportunity for DeBrincat to reclaim the top spot.

That’s what DeBrincat did after having arguably his best season, including a career-high 0.62 goals-per-game pace with 32 in 52. DeBrincat also built on the playmaking prowess he showed during the 2020 postseason, adding 24 assists in those 52 games — his highest assists per game rate over his career.

DeBrincat remains relatively small, making the ceiling on his defensive ability smaller than on larger players, but DeBrincat even improved there in 2021.

He was particularly effective at passing the puck out of his own end:

DeBrincat remains a presence on the power play, scoring nine goals on the man advantage. He also became even more of a defensive force and spent time on the penalty kill, finishing the season with ranked 11th on the team with over 25 minutes of shorthanded ice time.

DeBrincat spent a lot of time with Patrick Kane this past season, 553:03 at 5-on-5. The duo’s goal share was their best possession stat, but that’s not a bad thing: as much as possession stats matter in 2021, the game is still decided by goals, and the Blackhawks were very good at scoring them with DeBrincat and Kane together.

The Blackhawks will be benefitting from DeBrincat’s offensive abilities for years to come. While there needs to be some concern about DeBrincat’s next contract — he makes $6 million for the next two years and then will be making more than that — if there is any intelligence left in the Blackhawks’ front office, they’ll find the room.

DeBrincat is a special player that has helped launch the careers of special players (namely Cole Caulfield) after him. In 2021, DeBrincat got back to goal scoring and has shown a lot of development as an offensive player, even away from his shot. While 2019-20 showed that shooting percentage can fluctuate wildly, DeBrincat should be more confident after 2021.

And that should matter. DeBrincat can be one of the best goal scorers in the NHL. If he faces struggles but has that confidence and remembers that, he might be able to shake it this time.

DeBrincat is one of the finest players on the Blackhawks’ roster. He’ll likely be atop this list for another year.