One year ago, forward Alex DeBrincat was wondering if he would break camp with the Blackhawks. Now with one season under his belt, DeBrincat finds himself skating on a line with two players who have won a combined seven Stanley Cups.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” DeBrincat said Tuesday of skating with captain Jonathan Toews and left wing Chris Kunitz for the first five days of training camp. “They know what they’re doing. They’ve been in long playoffs runs, they’ve won. A lot of advice they can give me. It’s great to build chemistry with them.”
DeBrincat might be only 20, but he’s mature beyond his years. DeBrincat understands that he has a lot to improve on even after his breakout rookie season. That’s part of the reason why he chose to stay in Chicago this offseason to work with Hawks’ strength and condition coach Paul Goodman.
That decision might’ve been the best thing DeBrincat could’ve done for his development.
“It was a good spot for me to be,” DeBrincat said. “[Goodman] kind of knows what I need to work on and what can help me. So it was definitely a good move for me.”
DeBrincat, a 5-7, 165-pound right wing, focused on getting stronger this summer so he can stand his ground better along the boards. He also said he did a lot of leg work to enhance his skating.
DeBrincat’s hard work this offseason has been noticed by his teammates. Earlier this week, left wing Brandon Saad praised DeBrincat’s work ethic.
“Being able to train with him and be around him, he’s definitely putting in the work,” Saad said. “He was a great player to begin with. So it’s good to see that hard work in a young kid and it’s only going to get better.”
Last season, DeBrincat was one of the few bright spots in a season with no playoffs.
He scored a team-high 52 points, including 28 goals, in 82 games. He also had three hat tricks, tying Jets right wing Patrik Laine for most by a rookie in the last 25 years.
“It was a dream come true to play last year,” DeBrincat said. “I believed in myself and I thought I could play at that level and hopefully I proved to everyone that I can.”
DeBrincat is hoping to build off last season’s success by identifying areas of his game that need work.
His main takeaway from last season?
“Be more consistent,” said DeBrincat, whose longest goal drought was 13 games. “I was a little streaky last year.”
Toews seemed confident that DeBrincat could find his groove this season and be a more regular scoring threat for the Hawks.
“We’re again looking for that consistent goal scoring,” Toews said. “He’s one of those guys that’s going to be at the front of our scoring but he’s also going to add a lot of depth for us, too.”
DeBrincat isn’t concerned about the stat sheet, though. He said he would measure his progress based on how the team performs.
“With more team success comes individual success,” DeBrincat said. “It will just trickle down the whole line at that point. When the team is doing well, everything is rolling well and I think that’s kind of a good way to measure [success].”