PRAGUE - The doubts about Alex DeBrincat's ability to make a big impact in the NHL always came from those who took a quick glance at his bio, saw his height listed as 5-foot-7 and made the snap judgement that that just wasn't going to fly in today's game.
Surely, despite eye-popping numbers during his junior career, DeBrincat wouldn't be able to navigate his way through the trees of many of the hulking players that occupy the ice these days.
That helps explain why despite putting up monstrous numbers with Erie of the OHL during the 2014-15 and '15-16 seasons, DeBrincat lasted until the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft before the Blackhawks swooped in and selected the Farmington Hills, Mich., native with the 39th overall pick.
Even after DeBrincat was named the most outstanding player in the OHL following a '16-17 season during which he piled up 65 goals and 62 assists in 63 games and putting together a stellar training camp that landed him on the Blackhawks' Opening Night roster for the '17-18 season, doubts from the most ardent naysayers continued to linger.
Only when they observed DeBrincat's uncanny knack for finding open ice and unleashing a wicked shot that sent pucks past stunned goaltenders combined with intangibles that bios don't fully reveal-like the size of a player's heart and the determination with which he plays - did they believe.
But, here's the most important thing: DeBrincat always believed in himself and never wavered in his quest to become an elite goal-scorer in the NHL.
That has come to fruition as DeBrincat has recorded 69 goals and 59 assists in 164 career games with the Blackhawks, including 41 goals and 35 assists during the '18-19 season.
"The way Alex has broken into the league I think nobody doubts him any more," Senior Vice-President/General Manager Stan Bowman said. "If you think back to his draft he's always been proving people wrong and there was always that question, 'Well, he did it but let's see him do it at the next level.' Then he breaks in and he has 28 goals as a rookie and people are still saying, 'He did have a good year as a rookie but let's see how he follows it up.' Then he has 41 goals. So I think now we're past that point. I don't think anyone's wondering can he do it?
"He had a great first two years in the league but I think there's more to give there," Bowman continued. "I think Alex is going to continue to expand his game and become an even bigger part of our team. So knowing we have him this year and three more certainly (we) feel good about where that's going to lead our team."
With a nod to what he has already accomplished and with an eye on a future that looks even more bright, the Blackhawks agreed to terms with DeBrincat on a three-year contract extension Thursday, the eve of opening of the '19-20 season against the Flyers at O2 Arena in Prague. The deal that runs through the 2022-23 season, carries an AVV of $6.4 million and locks DeBrincat in as one of the core members of a Blackhawks team that is seeking to snap a postseason drought that has reached two seasons.
The extension will clear DeBrincat of any speculation and questions about his contract status the 21-year-old was set to face during the season. When Blackhawks.com asked DeBrincat about it last month he said, "I'd like to not have to worry about it and I would like it to be done earlier than later, obviously. I want to stay in Chicago and be a part of this team for a while."
On Thursday, Bowman made that happen and now all the remains is for DeBrincat to keep growing his game on the ice.