(CBS) Blackhawks rookie forward Alex DeBrincat was a star at Lake Forest Academy, playing hockey just up the road from the United Center, but there was little appeal of watching a star-studded team in Chicago.
A native of Farmington Hills, Mich., DeBrincat grew up a fan of the nearby Detroit Red Wings. In fact, he downright hated the Blackhawks, the team that would later select him in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
DeBrincat confessed to his former Red Wings fandom on the Spiegel & Parkins Show on Friday.
“We definitely considered the Hawks as a rival,” DeBrincat said. “I wasn’t a very big Hawks fan at all. I didn’t like them one bit.
“They knocked us out of the playoffs a few years. I wasn’t very happy about that.”
Of course, DeBrincat wasn’t at all disappointed when it was the Blackhawks that drafted him in the first round. They recognized the potential in what he could become.
The 19-year-old DeBrincat has posted 11 goals and eight assists in 25 games with the Blackhawks, including a hat trick in a win over the Ducks on Monday. He has been trusted to play a key role alongside stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, two players he considered rivals watching the game as a kid.
With the help of a veteran core, DeBrincat is emerging as a candidate for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie.
“The guys have helped me out a lot,” DeBrincat said. “You know, at the beginning of the year, you’re nervous. You don’t know how much time you have and stuff. The guys just keep reassuring me, ‘Just play your game, and good things will happen.’ I give a lot of credit to them in helping me feel comfortable and helping me play in this league.
“Growing up watching all these guys, they were going through the Stanley Cups when I was kind of getting to watching hockey on my own and understanding the game. It’s crazy to play with these guys. It’s a tremendous honor.
DeBrincat said there was no getting star struck when he got into the locker room. After all, the Blackhawks were counting on him to help them get back to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Blackhawks are getting rewarded for their faith in DeBrincat’s readiness as he proves to be a scorer at this next level.
“When I was growing up, I always had pretty much the same amount of goals and assists,” he said. “But I wasn’t really classified as a scorer until probably OHL. Before that, I could make some plays and pass the puck, too, but now I’m mostly classified as a scorer.”