#AfterAuston: Alex DeBrincat

In today’s #AfterAuston session, we’re going to talk about highly debated prospect Alex DeBrincat. For most of the season, DeBrincat was a hot topic among draft enthusiasts. He ranged everywhere from out of the 1st round to top 5, and everyone was assertive that that was where he belonged. Nowadays, the conversation on him has cooled dramatically. The people who stand on either extreme of whether “size matters” have largely shifted their focus to Clayton Keller, an equally small and increasingly exciting prospect. 

Where does DeBrincat stand relative to Keller? And what about the rest of the draft class? Why did the opinion on him cool so dramatically?

I’m here to see if I can find answers to those questions.

QUALITATIVE

Qualitative means, “what do you see?” Well, when you look at DeBrincat you see two things. First, you see a guy who’s pretty short. And second, you see a guy who’s really freaking good at hockey. 

Alex DeBrincat possesses a sniper’w shot that makes OHL goalies shake in their boots (or, skates, I guess). His skating needs work, and his passing isn’t really a definable strength.

Instead of going to the same wells of quoting Pronman or some other draft analyst, I’ll provide this Shift by Shift video of DeBrincat’s game on 10/9/15 against the Niagara Ice Dogs, where he scored 4 goals and added an assist. Commentary is provided in the video that gives a very good analysis of DeBrincat’s strengths and weaknesses.

QUANTITATIVE

There are exactly 5 draft-eligible players in the CHL who had a Primary Points per Game of more than 1. DeBrincat joins Dubois, Tkachuk, Abramov and Gauthier. With Dubois and Tkachuk both hanging around in the top 5 for this draft, that’s some pretty special company. And yet, DeBrincat’s rankings are nowhere near the top 5. Abramov suffers the same problem. What gives?

Here’s the rankings from several scouts/scouting websites:

Scout/Site ISS Damien Cox Hockey Prospectus Corey Pronman DraftBuzz The Draft Analyst Future Considerations
DeBrincat’s rank 26 24 13 15 22 21 27

For something to look at, here’s a viz comparison of his stats from Brandon Dennis’ tableau page:

Now, obviously Alex Nylander is a very talented player, but to see how much more of a producer DeBrincat was really shows you why he should be in conversations for high first round picks, despite his size. Wherever you may fall on the “size matters” spectrum, you can’t deny that production does matter. And in this case, there’s a whole lot of it. 

A breakdown of his stats by season is shown here from Elite Prospects:

And another thing to look at, here’s his shot map from Prospect-Stats:

debrincat map

This heat map shows you that he gets to the left side of the net, right on the edge of that home plate area, for the majority of his shots. This is part of what leads to his high production, is shots from high-danger areas. It’s also very interesting to see he led the OHL in shots for draft-eligible players, and was 3rd for all players behind Spencer Watson and over-ager Hunter Garlent. This high shot volume combined with his excellent shooting talent will undoubtedly continue to generate production for him in the future. The only real question is, will he generate such production at the NHL level?

FIT WITH THE LEAFS

This is always a tough question to answer, and the shorter a player is the more likely you are to say “no”, it seems. However, I’m very interested in DeBrincat and if the opportunity to draft him when if he falls appears, it will be something the Leafs certainly consider. 

From my perspective, at 30/31, getting a player with that kind of production is simply a chance you don’t pass up. It will be interesting if we can find out where the Leafs see his abilities; whether they choose to pass on him, select him at their picks, or even trade up for him.

  • FlareKnight

    I think the size debate misses the issues of concern. The majority of smaller sized forwards who are successful typically are highly skilled shifty skaters and can fly. He isn’t that type of player. Can he succeed at the NHL level without those high end skating skills at his size? The question isn’t so much size as it is skating. In my mind he profiles as a boom or bust. I think the danger is he becomes a very good AHL scorer who has trouble transition to the NHL because of his skating.

    • I look at a guy like Tyler Johnson, who isn’t a world beater skating-wise, who just gets to the right areas of the ice and makes the most of opportunities. A lot of the concerns you voiced about DeBrincat would probably have been voiced about Johnson if he had the production DeBrincat had coming into draft season.

      Overall, I agree, the skating needs improvement. But I don’t think you necessarily need to be shifty and speedy in order to be successful as a small guy.

      DeBrincat has an admittedly low floor, but if you can take a player with over 100 goals in 2 seasons with a 30th/31st overall pick I don’t think there’s any reason not to, given the high ceiling that’s there.

      As for where I’d rank him relatively, I really am not sure yet. I’m working on some overall rankings now and where DeBrincat stands is very much in contention. I’m probably going to slot him around 20/21 in the end, but we’ll see. His goal scoring is too hard to ignore for me.

  • CMpuck

    Know there is a Mister Hockey article coming but he punched faces, I’ll bet all my gym gainz that TLN will hypocritically praise his face punching in that flowery article. Because like the mainstream media, blogs are incapable of surprising me with new content or breaking normative discourse with an actual idea.

  • Oilers Rule

    Draft him.

    Not a bad deal if you get an Eberle type player as you can always trade talent to another team for another part your team may be more in need of.

    • Gary Empey

      Sounds reasonable. The biggest problem though is after drafting guys like Eberle their team does not really want to trade him for his real value. They end up keeping them hoping things will turn around next year.

  • FlareKnight

    In the end he’s a curious option. All depends if he can translate what he does well into the NHL level and that’s something up to the scouts to figure out.

    He’s got some great skills with the puck and that’s a great thing to have in the system. I don’t think the Leafs are against going for pure skill so he should be an option.

    May just be the guides I checked out, but he seems to have good speed.

    I don’t mind giving size consideration. After all there are only so many 5’7 guys in the NHL. But, you are taking gambles all over the place.

    Depends who is still on the board. There are some guys I really think should get some consideration. And Debricant is one of them. Just have to make the right choice.

  • Mitch92

    DeBrincat’s height is the only thing holding him back. He stepped out of McDavid’s shadow in a big way last season with the Erie Otters. Could he be the next Marty St. Louis?