BUFFALO, N.Y. —A day after trading away a scrappy, undersized, productive forward with a nose for the net, the Blackhawks went out and drafted another.
But don’t mistake second-round pick Alex DeBrincat for an Andrew Shaw clone. After all, Shaw never scored more than 22 goals in the Ontario Hockey League. DeBrincat has scored 51. Twice.
He’s tiny at 5-foot-7, but his gaudy numbers had some pundits expecting him to go in the first round. So when he fell to the Hawks at No. 39, Stan Bowman —who’s never had a problem giving small players a shot —pounced.
“It’s pretty special what Alex has been able to do,” Bowman said. I don’t know the exact number of guys that scored 50 goals back-to-back in the OHL. It’s a very small list. … He’s not a big guy, but he has unique skill and has great hands and great anticipation and he knows how to put the puck in the net.”
DeBrincat is a Detroit-area native who grew up a Red Wings fan — “Not anymore,” he said —and will almost certainly be back with the Erie Otters when the season begins. But he said his goal is to crack the NHL lineup “as soon as possible.”
“I’m a gritty goal-scorer,” said DeBrincat, who played a season at Lake Forest Academy and attended a few Hawks games. “I like to get around the net to score goals and I don’t mind playing the body. As a small guy, I have to play a little bigger than I am.”
DeBrincat’s had some big-name linemates with the OHL’s Erie Otters over the past two seasons. In 2014-15, he had 51 goals and 53 assists with 2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid as his center. This past season, he had 51 goals and 50 assists, he had 2015 third-overall pick Dylan Strome as his center.
“They definitely helped me a lot,” DeBrincat said. “Watching them in practice really improved my game a lot. You try to pick pieces of their game and use it in your own game. Just watching those guys and being able to play with those guys is pretty remarkable.”
DeBrincat was one of three second-round picks for the Hawks, who landed two by trading Shaw to Montreal on Friday night. The Hawks took DeBrincat, defenseman Chad Krys and Russian winger Artur Kayumov in a 12-pick span. Krys played alongside DeBrincat at the World Juniors, and crashed DeBrincat’s press scrum, jokingly asking what it’s like to be drafted to the same team as his old teammate.
“Unbelievable,” a smiling DeBrincat said. “A great guy and the best ‘D’ I’ve ever played with.”
Krys, a 5-11 Philadelphia native, had three goals and 26 assists in 53 games with the U.S. national team development program, a favorite source of prospects for Bowman and director of scouting Mark Kelley. Krys will play at Boston University next season. Kelley marveled at Krys’ poise and maturity, but Krys said he has plenty of room to grow.
“There are a lot of things I need to work on,” Krys said. “That’s why I’m going to BU. But I think [the Hawks] like skating defensemen who can move the puck quickly, get the puck up to their forwards, and handle the puck well and be involved. So it’s great to be part of an organization that has defensemen who play like that.”
Kayumov, a 5-10 Russian, had 12 goals and 19 assists in 39 games with the Russian under-18 team. Through an interpreter, he called himself a goal-scorer and a leader — and a Hawks fan.
“This is my favorite team growing up and that’s all you need to say,” he said. “It’s amazing.”