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DeBrincat defies odds, honored to represent Blackhawks at All-Star Game

At 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, the Chicago Blackhawks forward would be too small to compete. And when he played for Erie of the Ontario Hockey League, many credited his production to his linemates, a group that included forwards Connor McDavid and Dylan Strom.

Yet here he is, not only thriving in the NHL, but heading to his first NHL All-Star Game.

“He needs people to tell him he has no chance so he can prove them wrong again,” said former Erie coach Kris Knoblauch. “He can score goals and do it in many ways, but I don’t know where he will rank once his career is over.”

Currently, DeBrincat is one of the most productive scorers in the NHL. The 24-year-old leads the Blackhawks and is fifth in the NHL with 26 goals this season, numbers that earned him a trip to the 2022 Honda NHL All-Star Game at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on February 5 (15). h ET; ABC, SN, TVAS, ESPN+, SN Now, NHL LIVE).

“It’s awesome,” DeBrincat said of the selection. “We obviously have a few guys who probably could have gone there, but it’s an honor for sure and I’m thrilled to go and do it and represent the Blackhawks.”

Video: [email protected]: DeBrincat scores in 3rd period

Selected in the second round (39th overall) by the Blackhawks in the 2016 NHL Draft, DeBrincat scored 265 points (145 goals, 120 assists) in 331 games. The 145 goals are the ninth in the NHL since the start of 2017-18, his rookie season.

However, DeBrincat isn’t focused on his league-best ranking.

“I don’t think about it too much,” he said. “I just try to improve every day and help the team win. That’s the most important thing. Do everything you can to improve the team game and my personal game as well.”

Blackhawks teammate Patrick Kane said he thought DeBrincat was the most deserving member of the team to go to the All-Star Game, noting his joy and passion for the game.

“It really helps him become a hard worker and one of the best players on the ice every night,” Kane said. “He definitely works in the offseason on and off the ice. You always see him on the ice early, working on his shot, working on whatever, always on the ice late, doing the same kind of thing. I don’t think it’s for any reason other than the fact that he loves the game so much. I think when you have someone that good and he loves the game and wants to work hard, you’re going to see the results you get with what you ‘see with ‘Brinksy.'”

DeBrincat also enjoyed international success with the United States at the 2018 and 2019 IIHF World Championships. He had nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 10 games in 2018, when the United States finished third, and nine points (seven goals, two assists) in eight games in 2019, when the team finished seventh. .

During his rookie season in 2017-18, DeBrincat scored 28 goals for the Blackhawks, third among freshman players behind the forward Brock Boeser Vancouver Canucks (29) and forward Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets (31). Still, Dan Bylsma, an assistant on each of those American teams, said he didn’t know what to expect from DeBrincat in that first tournament.

“He was a youngster and obviously he scored goals [with the Blackhawks]”said Bylsma, now an assistant coach for the American Hockey League’s Seattle Kraken affiliate in Charlotte. “He impressed me a lot with his intelligence and ability to score goals, shoot, get in the right place, to arrive on time and really good at scoring goals. I don’t know how tall he is, but he plays 6-foot-2. When you’re talking about someone’s size, it’s not their size that matters, it’s the size of their game.”

Video: [email protected]: DeBrincat captures Jones’ thread

DeBrincat was playing at Lake Forest Academy (Illinois) in the 2013-14 season when Erie general manager Sherwood Bassin watched him during a game in Northern Michigan. Bassin was there to watch one of Erie’s prospects, but DeBrincat immediately caught his eye.

“He’s got five points, three goals, two assists, but more than that, you could see he played in every position,” Bassin said. “The only position he didn’t play in this game was goal. I think this guy is a player.”

In Erie, DeBrincat scored 332 points (167 goals, 165 assists) in 191 regular season games and 73 points (30 goals, 43 assists) in 55 playoff games. In his final season with Erie in 2016-17, without Strome and McDavid, DeBrincat reached career highs in points (127), goals (65) and assists (62).

“His heart is bigger than his body. His heart is 6-foot-5. Apparently they made him fit in that body 5-7,” Bassin said. ” He is not scared. He is not intimidated. He can read the game so quickly, he knows where to get the puck, knows where to find the puck too.

Strome, who is now DeBrincat’s Chicago teammate, played with him in Erie from 2014-16 and part of the 2016-17 season. In those two full seasons together, Strome had 240 points (82 goals, 158 assists) in 124 games, and DeBrincat had 205 points (102 goals, 103 assists) in 128 games.

Strome said DeBrincat’s game has evolved since then.

“He’s always had a knack for scoring big goals or timely goals. His shooting is still underrated. He’s got a harder shot than people give him credit for, and he’s really good at placing it. His game overall has improved a ton,” Strome said. “He now relies on defense for shots on goal and sets up plays. He gave ‘Kaner’ an open net the other game, and maybe before he would have shot it, but he slipped it and found the net open. He’s an All-Star for a reason and he’s a superstar in the NHL.”

DeBrincat still has one season left on the three-year, $19.2 million contract (average annual value of $6.4 million) he signed on Oct. 3, 2019. He’s gotten off to a good start, but the native of Farmington Hills, Michigan, could he end up being one of the NHL’s top scorers?

Don’t discount the possibility, Knoblauch said.

“It’s Alex’s story, he likes people to doubt him,” Knoblach said. “He’s confident in his abilities, and there’s no way he could have that success if he wasn’t confident.” Independent Correspondent Bruce Miles contributed to this report