Is Alex DeBrincat Actually Good Plus Split Up Kane & Schmaltz?

Henry asks…

Has Debrincat looked good enough to stay in the NHL or could he use an AHL stint, like Schmaltz needed last year, to find his game at the next level?

I would say he’s looked good enough to stay.

No, he hasn’t put up a crazy amount of points. No, he isn’t getting off an overly impressive amount of shots. During 5v5 play, Alex DeBrincat only has one goal on 16 shots on goal this season. He’s middle of the pack in individual production like shots, expected goals, and point production.

He started on the right side, which as a right shot isn’t as conducive to goal scoring as playing on the left side where he’s always available for a one-timer. Now that he’s on the left side, his goal scoring ability should improve.

The stats are okay right now. He’s now lighting it up, yet it doesn’t look like he’s out of place in the NHL. His line with Sharp and Anisimov wasn’t doing well, but the DeBrincat – Toews – Panik line is performing very well so far.

The main thing I see with DeBrincat is that he always finds an open area of the ice in the offensive zone and makes himself available for a one-timer like the photo below.

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Alex DeBrincat in a game vs the Minnesota Wild this season

I constantly see him coming into the offensive zone and then drifting into the soft area of the ice where he can get a shot off. In the OHL, DeBrincat had Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome, or Taylor Raddysh feeding him the puck. He’s use to highly skilled players feeding him the biscuit.

I don’t watch OHL games, but many of his highlights were one-timers, rebound, and loose puck goals. Will he eventually be able to create on his own in the NHL? No doubt. But what I’ve seen so far is a player who is making himself available to receive passes in the offensive zone, but just not getting the puck enough.

Like the photo above, I’ve seen multiple plays where he gets open only to find the puck carrier lose the puck, not see him, or make a safe pass out to the d-man. To maximize his output with the game DeBrincat is playing right now, I think he needs to be paired with a playmaker.

Who are arguably Chicago’s top playmakers?

1) Patrick Kane
2) Nick Schmaltz
3) Jonathan Toews

DeBrincat started the year playing with zero of these players. Now he’s playing with Toews which should help him. But I like the way he’s playing in the offensive zone, I think he just needs a player to create for him and get the puck on his stick. DeBrincat doesn’t need much room to get off his shot, but he does need someone to get him the puck. He’s also had a couple pucks hit the post on him, and he received no power play time in the previous game. The Blackhawks need a guy with his shot on the left wing on the power play. DeBrincat is basically Panarin’s replacement or Panarin Lite. To maximize his goal scoring talent and play him optimally, DeBrincat needs to be a left wing on the power play, a left wing at 5v5, and paired with a playmaker.

Is it wise to have the teams two best playmakers on the same line? No doubt Schmaltz and Kane are exciting to watch and have produce so far this year. Kane has 14 points in 14 games played. Schmaltz, on the other hand, has only recorded points in 3-of-10 games so far this season.

To get three lines going, I wonder what three separate lines built around Toews, Kane, and Schmaltz would look like.

Side note: Nick Schmaltz doesn’t shoot much. Tanner Kero is the only Blackhawk to shoot the puck less than Nick Schmaltz this season. Schmaltz didn’t shoot in college and he didn’t shoot much last year. It’s a trend with him. He focuses on playmaking instead of shooting.

But as for lines, something like:

Saad – Toews – Panik
DeBrincat – Anisimov – Kane
Sharp – Schmaltz – Hartman
Hayden – Wingels – Bouma

or

DeBrincat – Toews – Panik
Saad – Anisimov – Kane
Sharp – Schmaltz – Hartman
Hayden – Wingels – Bouma

With the general idea of Toews, Kane, and Schmaltz, the three best playmakers, being split up across three lines to try and balance lines and improve depth scoring.