Alex DeBrincat has 205 points in 128 games over his last two seasons. That type of production is usually synonymous with first overall talent, yet DeBrincat checks in as the 20th ranked prospect in our consensus rankings.
There is definitely an element of size bias at work here. DeBrincat’s 5’7″ frame (which likely checks out closer to 5’5″ or 5’6″) is enough to concern even the most progressive talent evaluators. Similarly, deciphering DeBrincat’s production and ability within the context that he’s played alongside two of the top OHL talents these last two seasons is a difficult exercise.
All those mitigating factors considered DeBrincat is still an immensely gifted offensive prospect well worth the price of admission — cost dependant. He’s an excellent goal scorer, as his back-to-back-to-back 50-plus goal seasons will attest and his playmaking doesn’t lag far behind. Let’s unpack the polarizing, diminutive forward on the other side of the jump.
- Age: 18, 1997-12-18
- Birthplace: Farmington Hills, Michigan, U.S.A.
- Frame: 5’7″, 161 lbs.
- Position: C
- Handedness: R
- Draft Year Team: Erie Otters
- Accomplishments/Awards: 13/14 MPHL Malloy Division All-Star, MPHL Most Goals, 14/15 CHL Rookie of the Year, OHL First All-Rookie Team, OHL Most Assists by a Rookie, OHL Most Goals by a Rookie, OHL Most Points by a Rookie, OHL Rookie of the Year, OHL Second All-Star Team, 15/16 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, U20 WJC Bronze Medal
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The diminutive DeBrincat has been one of the top scorers in the CHL during the past two seasons. Following 2014-15, there were lingering criticisms that summed up to “that’s all great, but he played on a line with Connor McDavid.” This past season, DeBrincat put a lot of those concerns to rest with a dominant campaign. He’s a highly-skilled winger who shows above-average to high-end speed, puck skills, vision and finishing skill. DeBrincat is constantly buzzing around the ice making all sorts of offensive plays. His elite hockey sense allows him to be in the right place and control the puck with confidence. He was one of the very best forwards in the CHL in terms of generating scoring chances. In terms of the negatives, DeBrincat is very small, coming in at 5-foot-7, but has a real tenacity to his game. He drives the net, battles for pucks and wins some scrums versus much bigger players. His defense isn’t great and his size will obviously hold him back there, but there is still a lot to like.
Tied for second in the OHL with 51 goals while finishing eighth in scoring with 101 points in 60 games…Led the league with 11 “first goals”, placed second with 10 game-winning tallies, and finished third with 269 shots…Won 53% (97-183) of his faceoffs…Was second in team playoff scoring with eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points in 13 games…Scored a goal in five games as Team USA won the bronze medal at the 2016 IIHF under-20 world junior championship…Played for Team Cherry at the 2016 CHL Top Prospects Game…Was named to 2015 USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, where he was on Team Plante’s top line along with C Clayton Keller and LW Kieffer Bellows…Scored Otters-record five goals at Niagara on October 1st, then added a four-goal game against the Ice Dogs eight days later…Named OHL Player of the Week on October 5th…2014-15 Named both CHL and OHL Rookie of the Year after leading all first-year-players with 51 goals and 104 points…Also named to OHL 2nd All-Star Team…Had highest points-per-game average among all 16 year olds in the CHL (1.53)…2013-14: Was invited to USA Hockey’s Select 16 Festival, where he scored a hat trick in the title game…Drafted by the Waterloo Black Hawks in the second round (27th overall) in the 2013 USHL Futures Draft…Signed letter of intent to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst before signing with Erie.
Despite being the only 2016 draft-eligible prospect to score 50 goals in major junior hockey in 2014-15 and his hot start to this season, DeBrincat remains outside the upper echelon of top prospects on many scouting lists for the upcoming draft, likely due to his 5-foot-7 frame. While NHL Central Scouting’s September ‘Players to Watch’ list gave him an ‘A’ rating, indicating that he’s a first-round candidate, TSN’s Craig Button excluded him from his list of 41 top prospects in his September ranking, TSN’s Bob McKenzie didn’t have him in his pre-season ranking and The Hockey News’ Future Watch 2015 left him off its projected top 10 for the 2016 draft. However, Sportsnet’s Damien Cox listed DeBrincat 20th in a top-30 list released this past week, so DeBrincat’s early success may be starting to gain him ‘elite’ recognition.
DeBrincat is a small player with a dynamic skill set. He is a pure sniper, scoring over 50 goals in two straight years in the OHL. He is very undersized, but can be very nasty to play against and shies away from no one. He had to deal with injuries at the 2016 World Junior Championship, but that did not hamper his production when he returned to the OHL. He skates well and is very effective around the net. He is hard to contain for such a small player, and has great chemistry with anyone he plays with. A decade player in the OHL. – See more at: http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=231275#sthash.OINa6pLS.dpuf
DeBrincat is one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft. His size, linemates (a list which includes two of the top three picks from last year’s draft — Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome) and downward production arc to finish this season make framing his production these last two seasons into the proper context. Stephen Burtch of Sportsnet tried to do just that, though, and his findings were generally positive.
Burtch’s findings suggest DeBrincat’s production last season carried an NHL equivalency of 17 goals over a full season — second only to Arizona Coyotes prospect, Christian Dvorak. For context, that would be good for a tie for ninth among rookie scorers, with Shayne Gostisbehere.
When viewed through the lens of pGPS, DeBrincat’s score, though a perfect hundred-percent, leaves much to be desired given the small sample — his one comparable player is Tony Tanti.
The obvious knock on DeBrincat is always going to be his size. He’s as pesky a 5’7″ centre you’ll ever find, but if he can’t build upon his slight frame and add to his lower body strength that won’t do him any favours at the professional level. If DeBrincat adds to his 161 lbs. and intensifies his focus on the defensive side of the game, what few wrinkles are present and fixable in his game would be ironed accordingly.
DeBrincat doesn’t have many equals in this class in terms of his ability to process the game. He has excellent vision and uses it to put himself in prime scoring opportunities. I’ve never seen DeBrincat shy away from going to the tough areas of the ice either, throwing all caution to the wind whenever possible. There’s also the matter of DeBrincat’s shot, which scouts value as one of the better in this class.
There’s every reason to be concerned about DeBrincat’s long term prospects of developing into an impactful NHL player. There are just as many, hell, maybe even more to be optimistic that he can not only develop into a bona fide scorer at the NHL level but a high-end one at that. It’s about finding a spot in the draft for him that accurately reflects the potential without investing too heavily in the risk.