The following is excerpted from the October 2016 issue of Blackhawks Magazine, featuring Patrick Kane. Pick up a copy at the next Blackhawks home game, or by calling the Blackhawks Store at 312-759-0079.
Here's something you already know about Alex DeBrincat: He's always been small. His 5-foot-7 frame is understandably the first thing people notice about him, and sometimes it's the only thing people notice about him.
Like all of those scouts from the Ontario Hockey League who wrote him off as a 15-year-old playing in Michigan, then as a 16-year-old playing for Lake Forest Academy just outside Chicago. Or the 25 National Hockey League clubs that announced their selections-some of them twice!-at the 2016 draft in Buffalo before Chicago made their first pick of the weekend at No. 39.
It's good, then, that the Blackhawks do not consider size an anathema to a prospect's chances of ascending to the pros, not when there's so much obvious skill entered into evidence. In recent years, Vice President of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley and his staff have zeroed in on a number of undersized but promising prospects, including Vincent Hinostroza and Tyler Motte, both under 5-feet-9 at the time they were drafted. Anthony Louis, a 2013 draft pick who is finishing up his collegiate career at Miami of Ohio this season, is even shorter than DeBrincat.
Here's something else you already know about Alex DeBrincat: He's one of the only players in OHL history to score 50 goals twice before his draft year. The last to do it was John Tavares, who did it twice in three seasons before being selected first overall by the New York Islanders in 2009. Before them lies a gulf of 14 years, when the game was different.
Tavares, who has 471 points in 510 career NHL games, was the first player ever to be granted exceptional status by the OHL, entering the league on the cusp of age 15. DeBrincat wasn't even drafted.
"Growing up, I was always small, so nothing's really changed there throughout my career," DeBrincat said. "I just had to find ways to make it work. Going to Erie, not too many people believed that I'd succeed, so I just had to work that much harder to prove them wrong and show them what I had. That's kind of the theme of my career so far-having to prove people wrong about my height."