Season with Connor McDavid aided Alex DeBrincat’s development

SHARE Season with Connor McDavid aided Alex DeBrincat’s development

Alex DeBrincat skates with the puck during a game earlier this season in Toronto. | Getty Images

By Brian Sandalow

For the Sun-Times

The 2014-15 season with the Erie Otters was Alex DeBrincat’s first in major junior hockey. One of his linemates was a forward named Connor McDavid.

“It’s a heck of a perk,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

On Thursday, DeBrincat saw McDavid for the first time in the NHL as the Hawks hosted the Oilers. Since their one season together, McDavid has been a No. 1 overall pick, the league MVP and labelled as the next generational talent.

Obviously, spending a year with McDavid wasn’t a bad thing for DeBrincat.

“My first year playing there, you learn a lot of things,” DeBrincat said. “That’s a big year for development and he definitely taught me a lot of things. How to play the right way and definitely a lot on the offensive side of things.”

There’s one aspect of McDavid’s game that DeBrincat referenced repeatedly.

“You learn to play with speed and he does everything top speed, so that’s kind of one of the things that’s helped me,” DeBrincat said. “I’ve tried to do everything at top speed and kind of emulate a little bit of his game.”

DeBrincat might not be McDavid, but it’s clear he has a fan in Quenneville, who’s given his rookie forward a feline nickname that seems destined to stick.

“He can make a lot of plays in his own ways. His ability to find the puck and keep the puck and make plays has been fun to watch. I like the way he’s absorbing our team game and doing a lot of things like that,” Quenneville said. “Offensively, it seems like, The Cat, every time he touches the puck, something’s happening.”

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It took eight games, but Jordan Oesterle finally made his Hawks debut.

Signed this summer after starting his professional career with the Oilers, Oesterle was the eighth defenseman to make the Hawks out of training camp. He was scratched the first seven games and got his chance Thursday, with Michal Kempny and Cody Franson sitting.

Maybe the wait will help Oesterle, as he’s had extra time to absorb the Hawks’ system. At least, that’s the hope.

“The [coaches have] been really good on emphasizing my time will come and just stay patient and stick to working hard in practice,” Oesterle said.

“In hindsight, it’ll make me succeed down the road.”

Quenneville stressed the importance of keeping players informed about whether they’ll play. He knows it’s not easy to be a bubble guy who doesn’t know if he’s in or out, but at least he and the coaching staff can communicate their plans so there aren’t surprises.

“We know that the depth of your defense is going to get challenged at some point during the year,” Quenne-ville said. “We feel the eight guys that are here can play. But that’s kind of the way we’ve always done it. We let guys know whether you’re in or you’re out.

“Sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit more patient than you’d like, but handling it the right way, whether you’re a good pro or good teammate, that can be healthy around the environment of your team.”

Meanwhile, Tanner Kero also returned to the lineup and Tommy Wingels was scratched.


The NHL fined the Blues’ Vladimir Sobotka $5,000 for his high stick Wednesday on Patrick Sharp.

Ed Olczyk announced Thursday’s game for WGN and received a standing ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the videoboard.

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