The 2018-19 season is coming to a close for the Chicago Blackhawks. This season had many ups and downs, from the firing of Joel Quenneville to a couple of winning streaks. One of the main highlights was acquiring Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini after Nick Schmaltz was traded to the Arizona Coyotes earlier in the season. The recent success of Perlini is a story of its own, but it’s hard to top the chemistry between Strome and Alex DeBrincat.
Prior to their NHL careers, Strome and DeBrincat were teammates on the OHL’s Erie Otters. They proved to be a dominant duo when they combined for a total of 184 goals and 261 assists after playing on the same line for two seasons.
The two were able to translate their OHL chemistry when they were reunited in the NHL, as Strome told WGN-TV, “We’ve played together for three years prior to this. Now it’s funny how it works where we’re back on the same team and back on the same line. For whatever reason, Jeremy (Colliton) likes us together, and we like playing with each other.”
When asked why they’ve worked so well together for so long, Strome kept it simple to the Chicago Tribune, “It’s chemistry.” (from ‘’It’s chemistry’: Longtime pals Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat rekindle magic with the Blackhawks’ – Chicago Tribune – 2/8/19)
Reunited At Last
Strome became a Blackhawk in late November, and it’s no surprise that nobody was more excited for his arrival than DeBrincat, as he told The Hockey News: “I was pretty excited. It sucks to lose a guy like (Schmaltz), but I got my best friend back, so it was pretty good, and it’s awesome to see him contributing every night and being one of the go-to guys.”
The pair wasted no time reigniting their flame when Strome put a Blackhawks sweater on. Head coach Colliton told the Chicago Sun-Times, “They definitely have an understanding out there and feel comfortable together. They’ve been able to give us a lot offensively almost every single game. It’s nice, when you build a lineup, to have that combo.” (from ‘Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Patrick Kane have makings to be effective line’, Chicago Sun-Times – 2/19/18)
There are many elements that go into creating a strong offensive duo. One can tell how different they are from one glance by noticing their massive difference in size, but their differences are what make them a scoring powerhouse.
Standing 5-foo-7 and only weighing 165 pounds, DeBrincat uses his small stature to gain speed on the ice and score more goals. During the March 28 game against the San Jose Sharks, he became the youngest player in franchise history to reach the 40-goal milestone. He has 41 goals and 33 assists in 78 games this season.
Standing 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, it’s pretty clear Strome’s different than DeBrincat. He uses it to advantage to increase his presence on the ice. Combined with DeBrincat’s speed, the combination is lethal. Colliton is all for Strome’s style of play, telling NBC Sports Chicago: “That needs to be part of his game because we have to have someone there. We can’t have three guys on the perimeter all the time, or we’ll never score, or we’ll only score this one type of goal. You have to score every type of goal, different kinds of goals, and so that’s important.”
He has proven Colliton right, tallying 14 goals and 31 assists in 54 games this season with the Blackhawks.
When it comes to their future, DeBrincat’s seems to be set. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews made it clear to the Chicago Sun-Times that he’s worth investing in, citing his work ethic and leadership skills: “He’s one of those guys coming in with the talent, but he also has the desire to want to get better every single day. That’s the number one quality to look for in a teammate.” (from ‘Jonathan Toews thinks Alex DeBrincat could be ‘future leader of a hockey club’’ – Chicago Sun-Times – 1/28/18)
It’s safe to say that when it comes to DeBrincat, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be saying goodbye to Blackhawks fans anytime soon.
Though nothing is set in stone, Strome’s future is rather unclear. Issues unrelated to the salary cap also come into play. Despite performing well with the Blackhawks, he’s been in a red sweater for less than a season. His prior NHL experience with the Coyotes was far from consistent. He only tallied seven goals and nine assists in 48 games, also moving back in forth between the OHL and AHL.
With speculation aside, it’s very clear that Strome is worth the investment. In the salary cap era, it’s far from an easy task to sign two young players to an extension, especially on a team like the Blackhawks, who are already tight on cap space. When it comes to DeBrincat and Strome, numbers don’t lie. Stars like Toews and Patrick Kane won’t be around forever, and Strome and DeBrincat are the perfect candidates to take their place someday.