CHICAGO (AP) — Alex DeBrincat is listed at 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, and that might be a little generous. There is nothing about his appearance that even hints at his profession.
And then he hits the ice.
The 19-year-old DeBrincat is trying to grab a spot on the Chicago Blackhawks after leading the Erie Otters to the Ontario Hockey League championship in May. While he is a long shot to make the team out of training camp, there are openings on Chicago’s bottom three lines and it looks as if he could get a chance at some point this season.
“I have to show them that I’m strong enough and fast enough to play in the NHL,” DeBrincat said, “and obviously I have to score goals. That’s what I’m here for. If I do those things, then it’s going to be good for me and gives me more opportunity.”
DeBrincat was one of the top attractions at the Blackhawks’ annual training camp festival on Saturday. He was a fan’s choice for the starting lineup for the Red team, playing alongside captain Jonathan Toews and rugged winger Brandon Saad. He had a nice steal midway through the second period and fed Ryan Hartman for a wide-open look in front, but Jeff Glass got over for a terrific stop.
“I think we want to see him do what he does best,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think that he’s got great instincts offensively and he finds the puck in dangerous areas and comes up with loose pucks because he’s got, the hockey sense of how he handles and uses his stick is high end and around the net he’s got great finish. So I don’t think we want to see him do anything different than how he’s played in junior and how he’s played his whole life.”
What DeBrincat has done his whole life is score — a lot.
DeBrincat, a second-round pick in the 2016 draft, led the OHL with a whopping 65 goals and 127 points in 63 games last season. No other player in the league had more than 48 goals or 109 points.
He also had an OHL-best 38 points in 22 playoff games, powering the Otters to the J. Ross Robertson Cup.
“I think I’m pretty good at finding the open areas,” DeBrincat said. “So I think that’s kind of where my game strives. I find those spots and I have a quick release. That’s kind of what’s been my bread and butter so far. I’ve just got to find out how to use my speed and get to the open areas here.”
He got a boost heading into training camp when he played on the Blackhawks’ winning team in an NHL prospect tournament in Michigan. He had five goals in four games, including the overtime winner in the championship against Columbus.
“Alex DeBrincat had a great start, finding a way to score every game and be an impact player,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “So that’s good to see and we’re hoping that can continue on here as we watch them in camp.”
But DeBrincat still faces a daunting road, given his youth and size. It’s also a tough transition going from the OHL to the NHL.
Patrick Kane put up similar numbers with the London Knights for the 2006-07 season, finishing with 62 goals and 83 assists in 58 games. He made his NHL debut at 18 in October 2007 and won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year.
“I just remember I had a really tough preseason and training camp my first year,” Kane said. “It was a little bit tough to get adjusted to it a little bit, whether it’s the speed of the game or how quickly everything closes. I think that’s the biggest thing.
“In junior, the top six in junior is really good and then it kind of falls off after that, so if you get out there against those bottom two lines you have a lot of time and space and some opportunity to create plays more often than not. So that’s the toughest thing here. Every time you’re on the ice, you’re going to be challenged.”
DeBrincat thinks he’s ready.
“I mean I’m confident in my abilities,” he said. “I just need to show them what I see in myself. I’m confident in myself and I know I can do it.”
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.