It seems like ages ago when the Chicago Blackhawks ran the gauntlet and established their dynasty era with three Stanley Cup victories over the course of six seasons. Now though with captain Jonathan Toews not attaining the 60-point plateau in three campaigns, while potentially entering an early decline at only 30 years old, things are quite frankly looking bleak in the Windy City. Alas when you’ve won three titles in a brief amount of time like them, you can stand to stink up the place for some time. A team that serves perfect example to the aftermath of success in the salary cap era, these days sees the squad littered with many unheralded names beyond what’s left of the championship core. Thankfully, a bastion of hope surfaced in 2017-18, with the emergence of young right winger Alex DeBrincat to cauterize the bleed somewhat for their fan base. Though he’s far from enough to reverse this team’s fortunes in real life, he is there to be had as a sneaky piece in fantasy to help aid in your quest for a title.
While we can delve into overall production, the most promising and impressive information above is the phenomenal consistency in point output from the rookie winger. With 13 in every quarter, DeBrincat showcased an ability to be reliable offensively in his first year. Not something that is so easy for many players getting their feet wet in the world’s premier league on top of playing a full campaign. A scoring force in his time with the Erie Otters of the OHL, the right winger scored 167 goals over the course of three seasons in junior with only one of those campaigns exposed to generational talent Connor McDavid. He arguably became a better goal scorer after McDavid left for the NHL, case in point: 65 goals in 63 games played in 2016-17. That ability to be an offensive catalyst without perceived higher skill players flanking him translated to the NHL immediately. Seeing a smorgasbord of line mates in year one with Chicago, he was able to create chemistry with seemingly whomever he was deployed. Keep in mind he rarely if ever saw time with Patrick Kane at even strength, so the fact he put up 50-plus points is that much more noteworthy. Had the likes of Brock Boeser, Mathew Barzal, and Clayton Keller not shown up this season, we’d all be talking more about DeBrincat as he’d have been a Calder Trophy finalist.
More so than any other rookie, DeBrincat’s campaign is the one amongst all first years to take notice of the most in my opinion. Since he saw the likes of Ryan Hartman and way-past-his-peak Patrick Sharp as his most frequent line mates, the production is impressive devoid of high end compliments. Let’s also not forget he put up 52 points averaging less than 15 minutes a game with power play two deployment. Lost in the shadow of other rookie showings, Joel Quenneville has to be realistic in 2018-19 and deploy him routinely on a scoring line. Either consistently flanking flailing Jonathan Toews in hopes of revitalizing his production or pairing with Kane looking for another Artemi Panarin like connection, DeBrincat must be featured in the coming campaign. For instance, a line consisting of him, Nick Schmaltz, and Kane, could potentially be lethal, with Schmaltz being pass-first oriented, Kane opening up space for the other two, and DeBrincat the triggerman. This is not the deep team they once were. Therefore, Quenneville should load up the top six with all the best offensive options.
While DeBrincat’s overall shooting percentage of 15.6% can be perceived as high, it is certainly not in the impossible realm to reproduce. At five-on-five, he shot at 9.54%, which nobody will bat an eye to as preposterous. He being a sniper, these percentages are very easily attainable once again. As far as possession, the diminutive winger drives play when on the ice as reflected in his 53.68 CF%. His 2.6 PTS/60 averaging fewer than 15 minutes of playing time means we could see him up towards the 65-point plateau if he can get himself to 17 or 18 minutes a night. DeBrincat is going to be available later in drafts because of all the hype around the other sophomores’ potential in 2018-19. While all are worthy of said hype, do not sleep on the Michigan native. Already proving he can be a 50-point player seeing limited minutes, second power play time, and barely any exposure to Patrick Kane, imagine the possibilities if the “training wheels” come off this season. More ice time would easily lead to over 200 shots on goal and the 30-goal plateau would be in the cards as well one could surmise.
Barring drastic statistical shooting regression in 2018-19, DeBrincat should establish himself as one of the more prominent young goal scorers in the game today. Though the Blackhawks are nowhere near postseason contenders in my book, it should not deter from drafting off this roster. Look to draft the Erie Otter alum beyond Round 12 in a 12-team league and acquire yourself some bargain offensive production. Do not seek him for anything besides goals and shots as he is not strong peripherally. The potential to play with Kane full time would easily lead to a new career high in points and assists for the young winger, so have him on your radar as your draft(s) unfold. Should he not ride shotgun with Kane and find himself with Toews and Brandon Saad, do not fret, as his right handedness counters well to any of the aforementioned, who are all left handed.
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