There's a lot to be said about Alex DeBrincat's ability to put the puck in the net, and with back to back fifty goal seasons in the OHL it's clear he's pretty good at it. Despite playing on teams in Erie that featured both Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome, DeBrincat still managed to lead the team in goals both seasons and is poised to do it again in 2016-17.
His biggest test will be playing without both McDavid and Strome for the first time, meaning DeBrincat will shoulder the load mostly by himself. Whichever team takes him in the draft will be keeping close tabs on him, as it will be important to see what he can do without an elite supporting cast.
Birthplace: Farmington Hills, Michigan
Height: 5 7'' Weight: 161lbs
One of the major concerns around DeBrincat was that he could have been a passenger on teams featuring two top-five overall draft picks in the 2015 NHL draft in McDavid and Strome. Yet he produced 28 primary assists versus 22 secondary, meaning he's generally driving the offence on the ice. Add in his 51 goals from this past season and you have 79 primary points out of 101 total, which is a great sign for his ability to create goals for his team.
His offensive ability is never in doubt, possessing great skating and puck skills in addition to a fantastic shot that enables him to rack up goals like he has in the OHL. Even his lack of size doesn't hamper his game at all, standing 5' 7'' DeBrincat battles hard and uses his edge work to out-maneuver defenders. A ferocious competitor, he never quits on the play, and will battle non stop to retrieve the puck on the forecheck.
The biggest knock against him is the most obvious one; his size is likely considered too small for the NHL by many NHL GM's and scouts. This is likely to cause him to drop down the draft board despite his overwhelming offensive production. Like we've seen many times before, size is not an accurate predictor of NHL success, just ask someone like Brendan Gallagher.
Let's not forget, this is a player with back-to-back 100-plus point season in the OHL. Just look at some of his handy work in the video below.
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 player and shies away from no one. 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.
DeBrincat is a pure sniper in a pint-sized body. He has great speed and a very quick first step. He’s incredibly hard to slow down once he gets the puck, something that needs to continue consistently if he is to be successful at the next level. When carrying the puck, DeBrincat exudes confidence, uses his size to slip and weave his way through traffic, and maintains strength on the puck. He anticipates physical pressure coming his way and will distribute at the right times. Based on the pressure from defenders, he adjusts his hand speed accordingly, deking his way out of trouble or protecting the puck at the side of his body.
DeBrincat really uses his speed and quickness to his advantage on the forecheck as he chases down loose pucks or applies pressure to the puck carrier. He is a puck-hungry little bugger who can make the life of a defender hell as he is relentless in getting the puck back once he loses it. He’s not afraid to throw his weight around, or hack and whack with his stick. And he isn’t afraid to take a hit, appearing much more motivated to make something happen and get on the puck after he receives one. DeBrincat’s zone entries are done with control and speed, oftentimes driving the play so fast that he pushes defenders back on their heels. When receiving a pass, he has no desire to slow down, more often than not receiving the pass in transition and increasing his speed right as he gets possession.
DeBrincat has a knack for turning bad passes into strong scoring opportunities, settling the puck quickly before firing a quick wrist shot or one-timer on net. DeBrincat sees the ice well and can hit his man with a quick pass on the tape through bodies. He has a pretty quick release, and although it can be obvious he intends to shoot, his shot is so quick and accurate it does not matter. He draws defenders in with and without the puck, giving his teammates more space to work with once they get the puck. Defensively, DeBrincat knows his role and gets back to defend rather quickly. He reads the incoming play well in his zone, and can knock pucks down and move them across ice where his teammates have more space to work with to break out.
DeBrincat is one of the most skilled players in this year's draft. Was outstanding during the OHL playoffs and has the ability to beat anyone one-on-one anywhere on the ice. He has excellent hands and vision. He is able to make quick decisions with the puck to get it to the right places. One of the best in the league at finding open ice. Rarely did he get out battled because of his size. Very aggressive when he has the puck or is in pursuit of the puck. He has great edges and this makes him hard to contain or even hit as he is constantly moving in and out.
Future Considerations: 27th
Central Scouting Service: 21st (North American skaters)
Hockey Prospect: 28th
Draftbuzz Hockey: 22nd
The Draft Analyst: 21st
Much like Jeremy Bracco last year, the size narrative around DeBrincat is going to send him tumbling down the draft board, possibly all the way to a team early in the second round. His offensive prowess combined with his compete level is going to make him a dynamite player for years to come, and the Canadiens would be incredibly lucky to add him to their prospect pool.
However, the question would be do you trade down and take him later in the first round, or hope that he remains on the board when the Canadiens pick 39th overall. He fits the mold of highly skilled smaller players being selected by the Habs in recent years, see Charles Hudon or Martin Reway for example.
Ninth overall would be a major stretch, even with all of his offensive talent. If they did trade down, it could net some considerable assets in return, as they probably wouldn't even need to be in the top-20 to get him. This could help them shore up the prospect pool, all while acquiring a highly talented pure goal scorer.
And in all likelihood, he will become yet another player who defies the odds, and proves that size is not the only thing that matters in the NHL.