Erie Otters sniper Alex DeBrincat has every right to have a chip on his shoulder. Even though he’s lighting up the OHL this year with 31 goals and 52 points in 25 games, most scouting services feel he’s not going to hear his name called with a top 15 selection this June because of his 5-foot-7, 160-pound stature.
The Detroit, MI., native isn’t fazed by his naysayers, though. He understands the skepticism some scouts have over smaller players.
“I think they are underestimating me a little a bit, but I guess you have to be cautious when you’re picking someone (in the draft),” says DeBrincat, who was ranked as an A-list prospect (potential first rounder) by NHL Central Scouting Service. “If someone is better than me, I don’t take it personal if they are ranked ahead of me. The scouts rank who they think is the best and I’m just honoured to be ranked.”
This isn’t the first time DeBrincat, 17, has heard people doubt whether he has what it takes to play his game at the next level. He heard his critics question how well he could adjust to the major junior and ‘AAA’ midget levels.
“I’ve for sure heard people doubt me growing up,” he says. “You can’t care too much what other people say. If you think you can do something, you usually you can. I believe in myself and have just continued to work hard and not worry about what people think.”
With a modest and humble attitude, DeBrincat, who’s regarded as a prolific goal scorer with elite hockey sense and speed, credits his teammates for the success he’s had in his draft year.
“Our whole team has been playing well and we’ve been scoring a lot of goals this year,” says DeBrincat, who scored 51 markers and 104 points in 68 contests last year. “We have a good team and have had a lot of success scoring goals.”
Fortunately for DeBrincat, he learned firsthand what it takes to be an elite talent last year, as he played alongside Edmonton Oilers phenom Connor McDavid. He feels he learned a lot of from McDavid by just watching how he conducted himself on and off the ice.
“I learned a lot from him on the ice, but also off the ice,” he says. “How he handled the media and focused on what’s on the ice and didn’t let other stuff distract him. And he would try different types of moves in practice and I started doing the same. You try it out in practice and work on it and then make the decision whether or not you’re ready to try it out in a game. It helps you be more creative in games."
1. How did you get involved in hockey while growing up in Michigan?
“My brother played and my dad loved hockey. I was on the ice when I was really young like a year and a half or two years old or so. My dad would make a rink and I would skate on it and play on it a lot.”
2. You spent your 2013-14 season at Lake Forrest Academy in Illinois. What was your experience like there?
“I loved it there. I grew up a lot being away from home. You mature quickly when you’re in that type of place and are on your own a lot. I also developed a lot there and spent lots of time on the ice practicing.”
3. Do you have a favourite player in the NHL?
“I like watching the smaller guys like (Tampa Bay Lightning star) Tyler Johnson and (Calgary Flames winger) Johnny Gaudreau. I also like (Montreal Canadiens scorer) Brendan Gallagher. He’s not afraid to get in the tough areas and he’s someone I try to play like.”
4. Do you have a favourite NHL team?
“Growing up in Detroit, I cheer for the Red Wings a bit. But I watch a lot of teams like Toronto, so I can’t say I have one favourite team.”
5. What type of music do you prefer to listen to before a game?
“I’ll listen to whatever the guys want to listen to. It’s not a big deal with me and I just go with the flow.”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen