Blackhawks defenseman Nikita Zadorov recently pulled up the 2016 NHL draft class online while sitting near Alex DeBrincat during a team flight.
Zadorov knew DeBrincat was drafted in 2016 but didn’t know exactly how the draft played out. He couldn’t believe who was taken before DeBrincat and how many teams passed on him before the Blackhawks selected him in the second round with the 39th overall pick.
“We were just sitting in the plane kind of looking at the draft,” Zadorov said. “Like, he had over 100 points in back-to-back years in the OHL, then he got drafted in the second round. I was kind of shocked. I was like, what else do you need to get drafted in the first round? The scouting report was he was too small for the league. I guess they were wrong.”
The draft order and the teams that overlooked him used to bother DeBrincat. It was a motivational chip for a few years there, and it propelled him in his last OHL season and early into his pro career. Now that DeBrincat has established himself in the NHL, he’s driven less by what happened over those two draft days in 2016. He’s become a ferocious backchecker in recent years not because a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning skipped over him a few times, but because he wants to be a great NHL player.
As much as DeBrincat laughed along as Zadorov read off the draft list on that day, he has firmly put that in his past.