Chicago Blackhawks: Ready for Alex DeBrincat?

The Chicago Blackhawks roster has had some big changes this summer, with familiar names like Niklas Hjalmarsson and Scott Darling being traded to different teams. Other names, like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have stayed put, but with their level of talent and influence on the team, it’s no surprise. With the gaps left from former players, the Blackhawks have filled their spots with members like Connor Murphy, a defenseman who formerly played for the Arizona Coyotes. Despite those spots being filled however, there is still room for talent and many of that talent is brewing in Rockford. With many key members of the team also getting older, Chicago will have to remember to look ahead to their future, some of which is already prepared to take the ice this season if needed.

One of those key members who could open up this season is Alex DeBrincat. At only 19 years of age, DeBrincat may be young, but he’s already caught plenty of eyes in the hockey world. He was among ESPN’s top 100 NHL prospects for the 2017-18 season, sitting right in the middle at number 50. He also made the list during the previous season, where he had been higher at number 47.

Among DeBrincat’s former teammates are Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome. McDavid played with DeBrincat during his rookie year and praised him on his great season. He wasn’t surprised to hear that his former teammate had put up over 100 points in just 50 games. During the past three seasons, DeBrincat has put up 50 plus goals each year. He rounded out the last season with his personal best stats of 65 goals and 62 assists, in just 63 games. During the playoffs this season, he put up thirteen goals and twenty five assists, ultimately leading his team, the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League, to the championship win.

DeBrincat also won an award of his own, the Red Tilson Trophy. The award is given to the OHL’s most outstanding player of the year and given his stats, DeBrincat clearly earned it. His 65 goals during the 2016-17 season set the OHL record, as well as the 127 points he had. DeBrincat is in well company in earning the award, which was won by Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita, back in the 1958-59 season.

What’s holding DeBrincat back from immediately becoming part of the team is his size. At only 5’7”, some hockey experts question whether he will be able to still get past opponents in the NHL. It’s one thing to get past your opponents during juniors and the likes, but to take that to the NHL stage and still bring that presence is a very different story. However, it’s likely that DeBrincat won’t let his size hold him back at all. He has quick hands and he knows his way around with the puck, two skills that are highly beneficially in today’s style of the game. While some games do get based on strength and the ability to hit, many times thanks to rivalries between teams, there are far more games based on speed. It’s not so much how much you can knock out your opponent, but how you can get the puck and keep it away from them for as long as possible.

DeBrincat took his time at the 2017 prospects tournament to show the Blackhawks what he’s got. Not only did he end up scoring the game-winning goal in their game against the Detroit Red Wings, but he also had a fight with Detroit prospect Dylan Sadowy. He also had a goal against the New York Rangers, though the team did end up losing that game.

There’s a chance that DeBrincat may make the team roster this year, but he’ll have plenty of work to do to both get to that point and keep his spot on the team. Among top concerns are bulking him up and raising his speed. He has quick hands and a quick mind, but he needs his feet to match. He also needs to be able to hold his own among bigger, stronger players. Bringing him onto the team could be the boost that the Blackhawks need to give them a stronger season this year, but they’ll want to make sure he is completely ready to go before they take that next step and welcome him onto the ice.

Yardbarker: NHL

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