Rewind back to training camp in 2017-18.
Alex DeBrincat went into it as a highly-touted prospect after putting up video game numbers in the OHL. But the Blackhawks didn't know exactly how his game would translate to the NHL, as a 5-foot-7 winger. Heck, they weren't even sure he would even make the team right away.
Not only did he make the team out of camp, DeBrincat went on to finish the season as Chicago's leading scorer with 28 goals. But it was going to be tough to top that in his sophomore campaign, right?
DeBrincat has 21 goals through 46 games this season, and is on pace to finish with 37. For comparison's sake, only 12 players hit the 37-goal mark last season.
"I think I've played a little more consistent this year," DeBrincat said. "If anything, last year was pretty streaky and it's just tougher to come in and do that, so this year I feel more comfortable, more confident in my game at this level. There's a lot of things that go into it, just know what works, know what doesn't, consistency is definitely a big thing. When you can get that you're not having those highs and lows and emotions and stuff like that, so I think that's a big thing too."
The numbers back that up. Last season, DeBrincat went through goal droughts of 13 games, eight and seven (twice). This season, his longest is seven games. His next longest? Four.
DeBrincat has scored two or more goals just twice this season, which means he's producing more on a nightly basis rather than getting hot for one night. And that's crucial to the Blackhawks' success.
"The goal scoring is there, but I think his puck handling, his ability to move through traffic and the offensive zone and the neutral zone, he’s doing a really good job just moving his feet out there and having his head up with the puck, so he’s making a lot of plays," Jonathan Toews said. "That’s the biggest improvement I’ve seen. Aside from that he’s, as usual, doing a good job of finding the right spots to get open for shots. He’s been a weapon for us on the power play. Definitely a big part of our offense.