Farmington Hills' DeBrincat fitting in nicely with Blackhawks
Blackhawks rookie Alex DeBrincat on playing with veteran players: “My whole life I've kind of played up.”
So what do you do when you are a 19-year-old National Hockey League player and your team has an off day in Las Vegas?
You can't join your older teammates in whatever adventures they might get into because you aren't yet 21, and you can't legally enjoy some of the spoils of being an adult.
Well, when Chicago Blackhawks rookie left wing Alex DeBrincat found himself in that situation recently, he talked to his mother on the phone and she had a suggestion:
Do your homework.
Like many elite teenage hockey players, DeBrincat – who is from Farmington Hills – dropped out of school as a teenager (he was 15) to live away from home and play Junior hockey. So, even though DeBrincat, who turns 20 next month, is playing in the best hockey league in the world, he does not have his high school diploma and is working online in between games, travel, morning skates, etc., in order to earn the degree.
But DeBrincat, who was taken in the second round of the 2016 draft as the 39th overall pick, has been a quick study when it comes to playing an all-around game in the NHL.
After a spectacular Major Junior career in the Ontario Hockey League, which saw him score 167 goals in three seasons with the Erie Otters, DeBrincat – 5-7 and 165 pounds – has taken to the NHL game nicely.
He has three goals and seven points in 15 games and is playing on the Blackhawks' top line with center and captain Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik.
DeBrincat has certainly impressed Chicago coach Joel Quenneville.
"Most guys who have been offensive players coming into the (NHL), you're kind of wondering how they're going to fit in all zones without the puck," Quennevile told the Chicago Sun-Times. "And he's been a very good student as far as going to the right areas, playing a real solid team game (and having) a good awareness in his own end.
“He's got a good stick without the puck. His transition game from defense to offense is high end. He really has good play recognition on both sides of the puck. Great beginning for him."
DeBrincat is thankful for the opportunity.
"He (Quenneville) puts me in a lot of different situations and kind of tests me," DeBrincat said. "I appreciate it when he puts me out there and I know he doesn't have to do that."
He has also played on a line with Patrick Sharp and Artem Anisimov this season.
"It's huge. You're playing with a lot of different players with different tendencies," DeBrincat said. "If you figure those out, you'll be able to play with anyone down the road."
He has no problem being the team's youngest player.
"I'm used to playing with older guys. My whole life I've kind of played up. So not much is new there," DeBrincat said. "The guys are really nice to me, so it doesn't make it awkward."
It not only has been quite a ride for Alex so far, but also for his parents.
"It's weird. We don't worry about him too much because he appears to be very much on the straight and narrow," said his mother, Tracey DeBrincat. "But it's very weird. All Dave (Alex' father) and I keep saying to each other is, 'This is so surreal. So, so exciting, but so surreal.' "