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Chicago Blackhawks

Alex Debrincat proving he’s a quality player in his own right

Debrincat
(Jerome Davis/Icon Sportswire)

Doubt has surrounded Erie Otters’ right wing Alex DeBrincat since long before he was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, dating back to when he was an undrafted OHL free agent first spotted by Erie director of scouting Scott Halpenny.

He was too small, at 5’7” and 165 pounds. He was a product of his linemates, having played with Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome. He would never amount to anything at a higher level, they said—he was a novelty act whose fame wouldn’t last beyond major-juniors.

If DeBrincat’s latest milestones aren’t enough to quiet those doubters, not much will be.

Wednesday, fittingly against the London Knights, DeBrincat has become both the first 100-point scorer in the OHL this season (he currently has 47 goals and 53 assists), and the eighth player in the OHL’s modern era to record three consecutive 100-point campaigns. He also hit 300 career OHL points last Sunday against the Saginaw Spirit, a game in which he scored four points.

He’s also three goals away from becoming the second player in the OHL’s modern era to have three consecutive 100-point and 50-goal seasons–the other being Dale McCourt.

(Sidebar: there’s some debate on whether he would count as the first since McCourt hit his milestone when the OHL was still the OHA, but that distinction seems to be mainly based on a simple rebranding by the league. Let’s stick with second in the modern era.)

No matter how you slice it, that high level of consistency is in itself a valuable asset. While DeBrincat’s skill level is through the roof, it is perhaps more important that he’s shown he’s capable of using that skill and converting it into results on a consistent basis. His high-level scoring isn’t a one-off or a fluke. It’s just what DeBrincat does.

He’s also shown that he’s capable of successfully playing with other elite talents on a consistent basis. For the team that drafted him, that bodes well.

One of the stories surrounding the Blackhawks the last few years is who, exactly, is the right winger for Jonathan Toews? The way he’s played, it’s not difficult to imagine DeBrincat lining up to Toews’s right. Whether this actually happens depends entirely on Quenneville feels about him—and his record when it comes to young players, while somewhat improved of late, isn’t amazing— but from an outside standpoint, DeBrincat is a pretty good option.

Blackhawks’ general manager Stan Bowman is certainly a fan of DeBrincat’s.

“He has that innate sense of how to get into open areas and score goals,” he told Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune. “That’s probably an overlooked talent. You can’t really teach that. It’s an instinct and he has it. It’s a great season for him.”

Although DeBrincat has a chance to make the Blackhawks next season, given the OHL eligibility he has remaining, there’s a better-than-zero chance he spends another year in Erie. While his offense is astoundingly good, and the defensive side of his game is underrated, he is still a smaller player. If there’s a chance he could grow any more, the Blackhawks are going to take it, but it’s also just a good opportunity for DeBrincat to refine his skills against larger players in a non-NHL setting.

Given more time and development, though—probably with a stint in Rockford, given Quenneville’s history and DeBrincat’s own playing style—don’t be shocked if we eventually see DeBrincat on Toews’s wing. Their playing styles complement one another well, and Toews has seen success with players like DeBrincat in the past. It seems like a no-brainer.

For now, though, DeBrincat continues to develop, and we continue to be gifted with him treating the OHL like his own personal playground.

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