One bright spot for the Blackhawks has been the play of rookie winger Alex DeBrincat. The 20-year-old is proving NHL players come in all sizes. The 5-foot-7 DeBrincat has 12 goals, third on the Hawks, and 11 assists and has earned recent playing time on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. But since DeBrincat scored his first NHL hat trick Nov. 27 against the Ducks, he has only two goals. DeBrincat did most of his scoring on the third line, usually teamed with Ryan Hartman and Patrick Sharp. Of his seven goals in five-on-five play, he scored four with Hartman and three with Sharp, according to naturalstattrick.com. DeBrincat has only one five-on-five goal with Toews despite playing eight more minutes with Toews than Hartman. He has zero goals with Saad in more than 80 minutes of five-on-five ice time. So perhaps that was a reason DeBrincat found himself back on the third line with Hartman for the Hawks’ 4-1 loss Saturday to the Devils. He may have earned time on the top line, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is best suited for playing there at the moment. “It seemed like he had the puck more,” coach Joel Quenneville said of DeBrincat’s play on the third line. “Without it, he’s pretty effective on where he needs to be and how he goes around the ice in all the zones. But for him, it’s (good to) have that puck and play to your strengths.” Playing on the third line has its advantages for a rookie. Quenneville often deploys Toews’ line against other teams’ top lines, and Toews’ line attracts the opponent’s top defensive lines or pairings. Moving DeBrincat to the third line may enable him to draw more favorable defensive matchups and unleash his scoring prowess more regularly.
Blackhawks figuring out how best to utilize Alex DeBrincat
Chicago Tribune | Dec 25