There are plenty of talented players on the ice at the Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect camp, but just about everyone’s eyes are on one forward.
That forward is Alex DeBrincat, and although he’s only listed at 5-foot-7, his game more than makes up for his lack of stature. The talented skater racked up 65 goals and 62 assists for the OHL’s Erie Otters, and he was named the best player in the league thanks to his efforts.
The last Blackhawks player to win that prestigious award was none other than Stan Mikita, but DeBrincat isn’t making any assumptions about his status even with big-time accomplishments.
“That’s up to them,” he said when asked if he was ready to get his pro career started. “Obviously I want to start my pro career as soon as possible, but if they feel like I need another year in Erie then so be it.”
DeBrincat will undoubtedly get the chance to prove his mettle this year, as the Blackhawks are looking for scoring depth in their top six forward group. Players like Patrick Sharp will certainly be in that mix too, but with Artemi Panarin now practicing his craft in Columbus and Marian Hossa semi-retired, the stage seems to be set for DeBrincat to have an opportunity to make the big club.
“I’ve been working hard this year, especially compared to other years,” he said. “I’ve been in the gym a lot and been really focusing on things I need to improve on. I’m really working towards that, and everyone wants to make the team, so that’s a big thing for me.”
The coaching staff at Johnny’s IceHouse West has made it a point to work with all players individually, and DeBrincat has gotten plenty of assistance during on-ice drills in the rink. That one-on-one time is critical for a player’s development, and he’s making sure to soak it all in.
“I obviously want to get better here,” he said. “I want to soak in whatever the coaches give me, and to let management take whatever steps they need to take with me and do whatever they need me to do.”
The forward has said all the right things about wanting to do what the coaches expect of him, but he also recognizes that with his size and skill set, he’s more ideally suited to a top-six role on the team, and he said as much as camp progressed.
“My playing style is more skill and scoring goals. That’s my asset,” he said. “I’ll grind if they want me to grind, because it’s the NHL. You do whatever they tell you to do. With my skillset, I’ll be more of a top nine guy.”
Even with all of the pressure that comes with being one of the most heralded prospects in all of hockey, DeBrincat remains confident that he can show that he has what it takes to make it into the NHL this fall, but he’s taking things one day at a time.
“I’m confident in my abilities, and I know they have a plan for me, so I’m going to stick to whatever they want me to do,” he said. “I’m just trying to stick to one step at a time, and I’ll worry about training camp when it comes.”