Patrick Kane makes more than 13 times as much money per season as Alex DeBrincat, so a friendly wager between the two probably wouldn’t be all that fair. But the two Blackhawks are certainly keeping an eye on each other’s goal totals these days.
Through 59 games, the decorated veteran superstar and the 20-year-old rookie share the team lead with 22 goals.
“We were joking around a little bit about it,” Kane said after each scored in Saturday’s 7-1 trouncing of the Washington Capitals. “He’s been hot as of late. He’s playing great. If both of us start scoring goals and producing even more, it’ll be good for the team, too.”
DeBrincat has eight goals in his last 11 games, dating to his second career hat trick Jan. 25 at Detroit. He’s tied with the Lightning’s Yanni Gourde for second among all rookies, and his 17 even-strength goals are tied with the Canucks’ Brock Boeser for most in the league among rookies.
Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even sure he’d make the team out of training camp.
“I didn’t have many expectations going into the year,” -DeBrincat said. “The only one I wanted to do was make the team and work every day to earn my spot on the roster. Beyond that, I didn’t have many expectations. I wanted to help my team win and be as productive as possible.”
Well, the wins have been hard to come by, but DeBrincat has been the least of the Hawks’ problems. And he has played well in just about every role possible. He has scored on Jonathan Toews’ line, on the power play, in bottom-six roles, on the left side and on the right side. No matter where coach Joel Quenneville puts him in the lineup, DeBrincat has produced.
He also has earned Quenne-ville’s trust with his defensive play, no small feat for a young player. On Toews’ line, DeBrincat often drew the toughest defensive assignments and still held his own on both sides of the puck.
Less than two weeks ago, Quenne-ville said that nobody on the team had “exceeded -expectations or come close to it.” He amended that statement Saturday morning.
“He’s been the one guy,” Quenne-ville said. “For a new guy, he’s had a real good year for us. Good start, then an ordinary stretch, now he’s going at a real good pace again. I give him credit. I don’t want to talk about too many other guys, but certainly he’s done a real good job.”
DeBrincat’s success is further proof that the NHL has become a smaller man’s game, in which speed, skill and savvy are more important than size and strength. DeBrincat fell to the Hawks with the 39th pick in the 2016 draft mostly because he’s 5-7 and 165 pounds. It’s the same reason his immediate success caught so many in the hockey world by surprise.
“He’s been a goal-scorer his whole life,” Kane said. “It’s pretty impressive how he works at his craft and how he wants to be a good hockey player. He’s a young kid. He’s probably been counted out his whole life with his size. He’s obviously got a great future here. He’ll be a fun one for the fans to watch for a long time.”
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