Jonathan Toews thinks Alex DeBrincat could be ‘future leader of a hockey club’
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It’s not a fluke that Blackhawks right wing Alex DeBrincat is having an even better season than he did as a rookie last season.
While some young players fall victim to a sophomore slump, the 21-year-old DeBrincat has continued to make a name for himself. And captain Jonathan Toews has taken notice.
‘‘He had a great rookie season last year,’’ Toews said. ‘‘A lot of guys take dips after that, and they don’t really realize all the things that went right for them. But he’s out there working, paying the price and just improving his game, and there’s no coincidence that he’s doing as well as he is right now.’’
DeBrincat’s work ethic is one of the many reasons Toews said he thinks he might be a ‘‘future leader of a hockey club.’’
‘‘He’s one of those guys . . . coming in with the talent, but he also has the desire to want to get better every single day,’’ Toews said. ‘‘That’s the No. 1 quality to look for in a teammate.’’
That’s some pretty high praise coming from Toews, who’s not alone in his thoughts about DeBrincat.
Coach Jeremy Colliton agreed with Toews and said that’s part of the reason DeBrincat has continued to get better.
‘‘You see every day he’s out there at practice, pregame skate, working on his game,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘And he loves doing it, loves scoring goals, has that hunger around the net. He’s got that weapon [with] his shot. His release is fantastic.’’
DeBrincat exceeded the Hawks’ expectations as a rookie last season. He led the team in goals with 28 and tied for second in points with 52. He has 25 goals and 18 assists in 51 games this season.
And DeBrincat seems to be heating up. Going into the Hawks’ nine-day break, he had seven goals and 10 points in the last 10 games.
DeBrincat has done a good job of handling success at a young age. He gave credit to Toews and fellow wing Patrick Kane for helping him with that. DeBrincat said the two have been the most influential players in the locker room and gave him tips on how to manage the pressures of the NHL at a young age.
Their biggest piece of advice?
‘‘Just keep having fun,’’ DeBrincat said. ‘‘A lot of times it can feel like the world is crashing down on you, but you’re still playing the game you love and still trying to have fun with it. So I think that’s the big thing I try to push to do.’’
Toews, however, remembered giving DeBrincat another piece of advice.
‘‘I said, ‘Pass me the puck on the power play.’ That’s about it,’’ Toews said, giving DeBrincat a side-eye and a smirk.
All jokes aside, Toews said he thinks DeBrincat has a bright future. And DeBrincat said he’s just getting started.
‘‘When you reach the NHL, it’s really your dream coming true,’’ he said. ‘‘But there’s still a lot of work to do with anyone in the league. There’s always getting better, and there’s always contributing more.
‘‘So, yeah, it’s been fun. But still a lot of things to go.’’