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Alex DeBrincat not letting size keep him from becoming big scorer

Blackhawks prospect draws comparisons to, uses Patrick Kane as role model

by Dave Hogg / Correspondent

WINDSOR, Ontario -- Two things immediately stand out about Erie forward Alex DeBrincat: His size and his goal-scoring prowess.

During three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, the 5-foot-7, 165-pound DeBrincat has consistently shown that the former has little effect on the latter.

"That's something I just have to ignore," DeBrincat, 19, said. "I know there are a lot of people who don't think I'm big enough, and they say that you can't teach size, but [Erie] took a chance on me and so did the Blackhawks. That's all I want."

The Blackhawks selected DeBrincat in the second round (No. 39) of the 2016 NHL Draft. Although critics point to his size and lack of above-average speed as reasons he won't succeed, he's done well with the gifts he has, using his tenacity and hockey IQ to find the right spots to be productive in the offensive zone.

He's also had a role model in Patrick Kane, who was listed at 5-9, 160 when the Blackhawks chose him with the first pick of the 2007 draft.

"Patrick is obviously a guy that I look up to because he's paved the way for smaller guys," DeBrincat said. "He's not someone I can take a lot from on the ice, because we're such different players, but I can learn from everything he's done to succeed."

DeBrincat has succeeded despite going unselected twice in the OHL draft. He signed with Erie, and in 2014-15, scored 51 goals, the first OHL rookie with at least 50 since Kane had 62 in 2006-07. He had 51 goals last season, and led the league with 127 points and 65 goals this season, the most goals in the league since John Tavares (New York Islanders) had 72 in 2006-07.

DeBrincat then helped Erie win the OHL championship and reach the Memorial Cup with a league-leading 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists) in 22 playoff games.

He was named the most outstanding player in the OHL and won the Sportsnet Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year Award on Saturday.

"I never thought there was a chance that I could achieve something like this, given what I've had to overcome in my career," DeBrincat said. "When no one drafts you, you don't expect to get your name on a trophy with guys like Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux. This is a pretty amazing moment."

At the Memorial Cup, he is tied for second with nine points (two goals, seven assists) in four games at WFCU Centre, two points behind teammate Taylor Raddysh (Tampa Bay Lightning). In a 6-3 defeat of Saint John in the semifinal game Friday, DeBrincat had three assists, including setting up the game-winning goal by Dylan Strome (Arizona Coyotes) at 2:38 of the third period. He also made a key defensive play in the first period, clearing a puck off the line to keep the game scoreless.

"We knew they were going to have a better game against us than they did the first time," DeBrincat said of a 12-5 defeat of Saint John during round-robin play Monday. "They are tough on defense, and we had to stay patient and keep making plays."

The Memorial Cup championship game Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports) will be DeBrincat's last in junior hockey. The Blackhawks always are looking for younger talent to complement their core, and last season, six rookie forwards at least 10 games and four played more than 40. But Ryan Hartman was the only one to score more than seven goals so it's likely DeBrincat will have a chance to join Kane in Chicago if he doesn't start the season with Rockford, the Blackhawks' American Hockey League affiliate.

Kane has enjoyed watching DeBrincat's success.

"What he's doing in the OHL is really impressive," Kane said. "We saw him in training camp and I got to know him a little and he's a really good guy. I've talked to different people in the organization about him and they are really excited."

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