Blackhawks

Connor McDavid believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will succeed in NHL: 'He's a special player'

Connor McDavid believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will succeed in NHL: 'He's a special player'

Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat is putting up video-game numbers in the Ontario Hockey League.

He ranks first among all players with 49 goals and 104 points, and has done so in only 50 games. That's an average of more than two points per game.

DeBrincat, the Blackhawks' second-round draft pick (No. 39 overall) in 2015 thanks to the Andrew Shaw trade, became the Erie Otters' all-time leading goal scorer earlier this year and on Saturday, he tied Brad Boyes for second on the team's all-time points list with 309. The only player he's chasing now is teammate Dylan Strome, who has 329 and counting.

Connor McDavid, who ranks fourth in Otters history with 285 points, was there for DeBrincat's rookie season when he scored 51 goals and 50 assists. The 20-year-old Oilers captain very much still pays attention to the Otters, and isn't surprised by the heightened success of his former teammate.

"He’s having another amazing season," McDavid said. "No surprise there."

It was easy to suggest DeBrincat's numbers were inflated because he benefited from having a player like McDavid centering his line. But McDavid insists that wasn't the case.

"Honestly, we helped each other," McDavid said. "It was not a one-way street by any means. He finds a way to score goals. My year they were saying, 'Oh, he was just playing with me.' Then the other year, he’s playing with (Strome). He’s playing with Stromer again. To score 50 three seasons in a row is absolutely incredible no matter who you’re playing with or what you’re doing. Absolute credit to him."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The numbers back it up, too.

DeBrincat's points per game average has increased in each of the last three seasons: 1.53, 1.68 and 2.08, a significant jump from his second to third season. It's especially impressive when you factor in that he's scored only eight of his 49 goals on the power play this year after combining for 34 goals on the man advantage in his first two. 

Initially, McDavid was a little skeptical when informed that newly-signed winger DeBrincat, who's now listed as 5-7, 170 pounds, would be his new linemate. It didn't take long for that to change.

"He kind of just came out of nowhere," McDavid said. "I remember us signing (him) and looking, and it said he was 5-2, 140 pounds, whatever. The GM at the time, Sherry Bassin, said 'I found you a new winger.' I’m like, ‘That guy is going to play with me?’ Sure enough, he comes in and we kind of have that chemistry right away.

"He knows where the net is. He finds a way to score basically every night. He’s got a great shot. He’s one of the feistiest guys I’ve ever played with. It’s really remarkable about what he’s been able to do."

Size is surely to be the biggest concern for DeBrincat at the NHL level, but players such as Cam Atkinson (5-7), Johnny Gaudreau (5-8) and Mats Zuccarello (5-7) are proving that you can be among the league's best despite being undersized. And the game is evolving into more of an up-tempo style where teams built on speed is becoming the new norm.

DeBrincat's willingness to stick his nose into dirty areas combined with his offensively-gifted ability is a big reason why McDavid believes his former linemate will succeed at the highest level.

"I think well," McDavid said when asked how DeBrincat's game will translate into the NHL. "He’s just got such a drive and such a nose for the net that I don’t think he’s going to be stopped. He takes on guys much bigger. I don’t really know how he does it.

"Especially when he was a rookie and I was playing with him, he’s going into scrums against guys that are 6-5, and you’re on the ice thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to help you?’ He definitely picks his fights. He’s a special person and special player."

NHL 20 sim: Brandon Saad shows shades of Marian Hossa in Game 2 win

NHL 20 sim: Brandon Saad shows shades of Marian Hossa in Game 2 win

 

Game 2: Blackhawks at Blues (April 10)

Result: Blackhawks win 6-2 (Series tied 1-1)

Three Stars:

1st Star: Brandon Saad (2 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +3)

2nd Star: Olli Maatta (3 A, +2, 1 SOG, 1 H)

3rd Star: Jonathan Toews (1 G, 1 A, +3, 8-14 FO)

Brandon Saad showed shades of his 2014-15 self that was often compared to a young Marian Hossa. He netted two goals, got the primary assist to tie the game in the 2nd, and was a force at both ends recording four shots and a +3 rating. Olli Maatta provided some unexpected offense, chipping in with three assists including the primary helper on the eventual game-winner. The Captain stepped up when needed as well. Toews got the Hawks on the board to tie things in the second, and Chicago never looked back from there.

Scoring Summary:

First Period

-   6:59 Alexander Steen (O. Sundqvist, J. Kyrou) 1-0 

Second Period

-   1:19 Jonathan Toews (B. Saad, A. DeBrincat) 1-1

- 1:46 Brandon Saad (J. Toews, A. Boqvist) 2-1

- 5:04 Alex Nylander (O. Maatta, C. Murphy) 3-1

- 7:01 Drake Caggiula (O. Maatta) 4-1

- 15:03 Kirby Dach (Unassisted) 5-1

- 16:52 Vince Dunn (J. Faulk, S. Blais) 5-2

- 17:32 Brandon Saad (O. Maatta, A. DeBrincat) 6-2

Third Period

- No Scoring

Box Score:

Shots on Goal:

-   Chicago: 24

-   St. Louis: 22

The Blackhawks found a nice combination of depth contributions and stars stepping up. Established veterans like Toews and Saad did the heavy lifting early, then the depth and youth put the game to bed with a strong finish to the second period. With the first line through the fourth line all chipping in, the Hawks might be tough to beat if they are able to keep up that formula.

Goalies:

-   Corey Crawford: 20/22 (.909 SV%)

-   Jordan Binnington: 18/24 (.750 SV%)

Corey Crawford looked like the consistent, two-time Cup winner the Hawks need in net to win a series over St. Louis. After surrendering an early goal, Crawford was lights out despite an early push from the home team to try and put away the Hawks quickly. Once Crawford settled down, so did the visitors. While Binnington clearly didn’t have his best night, he was also a victim of some bad luck surrendering a pair of goals due to some unfortunate bounces. Much like Crawford in Game 1, Binnington didn’t get too much help in front of him.

Power Play:

-   Chicago: 0-1

-   St. Louis 0-0

After five combined penalties in Game 1, the referees swallowed their whistles and let the boys play. With just one power play in two games, there is no doubt Jeremy Colliton would like to see his team get a few more chances on the man advantage. On the other hand, the Hawks showed how important staying out of the box is for their defense and for their goaltender, especially against a power play unit as potent as the Blues’.

Notable Blackhawks performances:

-   Kirby Dach (Goal)

-   Drake Caggiula (Goal)

-   Alex Nylander (Goal)

After strong finishes to the regular season, Dach and Nylander were held in check in Game 1. That changed in a big way in Game 2. Both picked up their first career playoff goals; Nylander netting the eventual game-winner and Dach icing the game with a greasy goal in front of the net. Caggiula played his role well too, being a pest in front of the net, which led to his tally. The Hawks checked all the boxes they needed to pick up a win in Game 2. Now the series swings back to the Madhouse on Madison where the home crowd will undoubtedly be rocking. Blackhawks fans will experience their first home playoff game since April 2017.

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 4 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 4 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

After taking a 3-0 series lead, the Blackhawks had an opportunity to clinch a berth to the Stanley Cup Final at home in Game 4. And that's exactly what they did, beating the San Jose Sharks 4-2 to complete the sweep in the Western Conference Final. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. Dustin Byfuglien for the win

Byfuglien was really good in the Vancouver series. He was great against San Jose.

To cap off the Western Conference Final, Byfuglien scored the go-ahead goal with 5:55 left in regulation to put the Blackhawks in front 3-2. It was his fifth straight game with a goal, and third game-winner (all against San Jose).

Big Buff put a stamp on his work in Game 4 and it was a treat to watch.

2. A defensive clinic

The Blackhawks were a high-powered offense in 2010, but Game 4 was all about the defense.

The Blackhawks allowed a postseason-low 18 shots on goal and four high-danger chances in 60 minutes, according to Natural Stat Trick. Antti Niemi faced only three shots in the third period. It was a defensive masterpiece in an elimination game.

3. The tightest series of them all

The Blackhawks were better than the Nashville Predators in the first round. They were better than the Vancouver Canucks in the second round. And while they may have swept the Sharks, this was as even a series as you could find in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

In fact, the Sharks led in shot attempts (269-247), shots on goal (136-127), scoring chances (116-94) and high-danger chances (43-25), according to Natural Stat Trick. All four games could've gone either way, but the Blackhawks delivered in the clutchest ways, particularly on special teams, and it's why they didn't lose.

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