The 2020-21 season is in the books for the Chicago Blackhawks. Their 24-25-7 record for 55 points and sixth place in the Discover Central Division is about what was expected, as the team is officially in a rebuilding phase. Actually, one could argue they fared better than initially thought considering the circumstances. As we reflect on the season, my colleagues and I will be giving out player grades to all the Blackhawks in the coming weeks. It only seems appropriate to start with one of the best performers on the team this year, left-winger Alex DeBrincat.
DeBrincat’s Overall Statistics:
-32 goals, 24 assists, 56 points, plus-3 in 52 games played. Average TOI of 20:32 minutes
-46.6 CF%, 22 blocked shots, 70 hits, 31 takeaways, 43 giveaways, 12 penalty minutes
Season in Review
DeBrincat certainly had a bounce back season after a disappointing 2019-20 campaign where he only achieved 18 goals, 27 assists and 45 points in 70 games (18 more games than this season). The feisty winger’s 32 goals led the team, and was also third in the NHL behind only Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid. His 24 assists and 52 points were second on the team to Patrick Kane. DeBrincat’s overall production put him on pace for 50 goals, 38 assists and 88 points in a typical 82-game season.
The Farmington Hills, Michigan native was also arguably the most consistent player on the team. He produced no matter where he was slotted in the lineup. He thrived with Kane on the top line, but also did well with other partners on the second line. In short, he’s driving his production and that of his teammates instead of the other way around. He’s also been deadly on the power play, and even the penalty kill (more of this below).
Related – Chicago Blackhawks 2020-21 Player Grades
Of his 52 games played, the Cat has scored at least a point in 38 of them. This includes 15 multi-point games, with one three-point game and one four-point game. Throughout the season he had two five-game point streaks and two eight-game point streaks, including a seven-game goal streak at the end. He accumulated nine power play goals and seven game-winning goals. Oh, and one short-handed goal. Which leads me to my next point.
A Defensive Element
Besides his scoring prowess, DeBrincat has also worked hard to round out his game. He’s become much more responsible defensively; being aggressive on the forecheck and backcheck and winning puck battles. His 31 takeaways was tied for second on the team. Towards the end of the season he was actually added to the penalty kill unit. As an integral member of the Blackhawks’ power play, DeBrincat understands how to read the opposing team’s power play options and use it to his advantage. Since joining the penalty kill, he’s had numerous breakaway chances the other way. It finally paid off with a shorthanded tally on May 4th against the Carolina Hurricanes.
All in all, DeBrincat has simply committed to getting better. He’s stronger on his skates, and he’s bought in to the relentless style of play head coach Jeremy Colliton has preached about all season. His 70 hits was actually fifth on the team. He’s only five-foot-seven, and his entire career people have doubted him because of this. DeBrincat has just used that as extra motivation to prove them all wrong.
Leader in the Making
With Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews out of the lineup this season due to illness, DeBrincat has stepped up as one of the leaders of the team. Along with alternate captains Kane and Duncan Keith, DeBrincat and defenseman Connor Murphy were given this honor as well.
It makes sense to have DeBrincat be a part of this group. This was his fourth season with the team, and his intense and competitive character lends towards the responsibility. The “younger” players see this 23-year-old (I see the irony here) playing hard and finding success all season long, and it inspires them to do the same. DeBrincat is the real deal, and he appears to have a long and successful career ahead of him.
DeBrincat’s Overall Grade: A
I almost gave DeBrincat an A+ for his grade, because after the season he’s had it’s hard to ask much more of him. But there’s always room for improvement. The young man himself mentioned as much in his exit interview with the media.
I think just becoming an even better two-way player. Sometimes in this year, I kind of tailed off on that a bit. But if I can consistently play that way, it helps our team win more games, so I think that’s something I’ll put pressure on myself to do.(from ‘Blackhawks exit interviews: Patrick Kane’s scoring, Dylan Strome’s future, Kirby Dach’s wrist and more’, The AthleticCHI – 5/11/21)
Considering it’s primarily DeBrincat’s job to score goals, this commitment to another facet of the game is a solid plan for a superstar in the making. I can’t wait to see what the Cat has in store for us next season!
Keep it here at The Hockey Writers as we provide grades and analysis for all the Blackhawks throughout the offseason. Also on tap is my top 10 highlights from the season, as well as our Blackhawks Banter articles and follow-up shows. You can find these shows, featuring our entire Blackhawks’ crew, on The Hockey Writers YouTube Channel or our Facebook Page. Our latest episode is included below.