Alex DeBrincat Parlays Talent Into Contract

The Chicago Blackhawks signed Alex DeBrincat to a three-year entry-level contract Monday, the team announced. DeBrincat himself confirmed the deal through his own Twitter account soon afterward.

DeBrincat was selected with the 39th overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Blackhawks in June. Despite his small stature – 5 foot 7, 170 pounds – DeBrincat’s impressive offensive ability was enough to convince the ‘Hawks to take him with their second-round pick. In fact, the Blackhawks were lucky the small forward was available at all given how offensively-sound he has already shown himself to be at just 18-years-old.

A phenom in the OHL with the Erie Otters – and a former teammate of both Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome – DeBrincat has played incredibly well in each of his first two seasons leading up to draft day. In his first year in the OHL, then-rookie DeBrincat scored 51 goals and 104 points in 68 games as well as nine goals and 16 points in 20 playoff games. In his sophomore season, he scored 51 goals and 101 points in 60 games as well as eight goals and 19 points in 13 games.

Third Time’s the Charm

Despite having two very good seasons in each of his first two years in the OHL, DeBrincat is somehow still finding a way to break out even further this year. So far this season, the Farmington Hills, Michigan-native has scored 18 goals and 38 points with Erie. The real kicker is the fact that he’s done so in just 15 games. That isn’t a typo – DeBrincat has averaged 2.53 points-per-game so far this season.

Nobody can take anything that DeBrincat did in his first two seasons away from him. His totals were impressive and garnered him both the honor of hearing his name drafted by the Blackhawks, as well as earn an entry level contract. Despite this, however, there appears to be so much more left in the tank for the Blackhawks second-round pick at the OHL level and he seems keen on proving Stan Bowman and the ‘Hawks right.

As it stands, DeBrincat is on pace to score 76 goals and 165 points in 65 games this season – accounting for the three goals he’s missed this season. Based on what he’s done so far, there’s no reason to believe DeBrincat can’t reach those totals by season’s end. Erie has had some top-end talent over the last few years, and DeBrincat is looking to be the next notable name make his NHL debut sooner than later – unfortunately, that cannot happen until after the Erie season concludes

Why Wasn’t He Drafted Higher?

Scoring upwards of 50 goals and 100 points in approximately 60 games in consecutive seasons should be enough for any player to garner draft process attention. A top-10 selection probably could have been in line for the 5-foot-7 forward, but his size was clearly the biggest drawback for NHL general managers and scouts. There’s no denying that DeBrincat’s size is concerning, but there have been numerous examples of size not necessarily playing a role in a player’s NHL production.

Some notable players in the NHL who haven’t let their size get in their way include Brad Marchand, Johnny Gaudreau, Tyler Johnson, Brian Gionta, Cam Atkinson, and Mats Zuccarello, among others. Additionally, a notable name who became an NHL legend was Martin St. Louis who was listed as 5 foot 8. The NHL may be trending in a direction that is more tolerant and accepting of smaller players, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every team is willing to take that risk just yet.

For Bowman and the Blackhawks, an opportunity arose when DeBrinact was available in the second round. While he can’t step right in and help the Blackhawks for the time being, his development thus far suggests that he has the potential to be a big-time player in the Blackhawks top-six sometime sooner than later. Marian Hossa isn’t getting any younger and the Blackhawks could use another top-six right winger to develop quickly to fill that spot – this isn’t to say that Hossa has fallen off a cliff, but the fact that he’s 37-years-old means it’s time to start considering for a new role for him and looking for an adequate replacement.

Fortunately for the ‘Hawks, the 39th overall draft pick can play in the AHL next season if he shows signs of being close, but not quite NHL ready by the time the 2017-18 season rolls along. This relieves the pressure off of both the team and the player as the AHL is a great route to help fine-tune a skillset.