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2016 NHL Draft Profiles: Erie Otters' Alex DeBrincat - Little And Lethal

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The Erie Otters' Alex DeBrincat is a pure goalscorer of the old school. But his small size has made his draft ranking suffer. Boston could have a lethal offensive weapon fall right into their laps ...if they want it.

Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Watching Alex DeBrincat play hockey, you'd think he was put on earth to do one thing, and one thing only. And that thing is score goals.

Lots of them.

The little American from Farmington Hills, Michigan is one of the most lethal goalscorers the NHL draft has seen for a long, long time. He has a vicious shot, killer speed, great positional sense and plays with the kind of edge that doesn't see him back down from anyone.

The problem for him is that he does all this in a package that measures only 5'7 and 160lbs, in his draft year, with no real prospect of it getting much bigger.

In today's NHL, being small can mean you very easily get overlooked in the pack, by teams looking for a combination of size AND skill, size AND grit, size AND speed.

The game may be becoming more skilful, but the NHL is still run in the large part by those who grew up in an era where the bigger you were, the more likely you were to get noticed.

DeBrincat, however, has attempted to overcome that the only way he knows how - by putting the puck in the net with almost monotonous regularity and making performances like this five-goal salvo seem almost commonplace:

This is DeBrincat's second OHL season - his first was spent as a linemate of a certain Connor McDavid, which meant that many saw his 51 goals and 104 points as artificially boosted by the presence of an all-world talent on his left side (the third player on that line, incidentally, was Dylan Strome, who's no slouch himself, going third in 2015 to Arizona). There were questions whether or not he could keep up the pace given more of a prominent role with his partner-in-crime gone.

This time round - DeBrincat answered his critics by reaching the same goal margin in only 60 games (8 games less than with McDavid) and adding only three less assists than he did last season. He currently has 5 goals and 16 points in 9 games in the OHL playoffs-matching his total tally in 20 playoff games last season.

In short, a natural sniper is becoming even more dangerous as he develops, having lost a generational talent as his setup man after his rookie year.

But he's small.

5'7 and 160lbs is the kind of size that conventional wisdom says will see you spend most of your NHL career smeared over plexiglass like a bug on a windshield or a non-factor in the corners. Even the NHL's prototypical "little guy that could" Theo Fleury, was the same height as DeBrincat but 20lbs heavier.

Small, say the scouts, means danger. Small means "easily driven out of a game" or "neutralised quickly" or, worst of all for NHL's traditionalist draft philosophy, "soft".

DeBrincat is small. That is an unavoidable fact. He is dangerous (particularly if you're an opposition goalie, or a length of net-twine). But soft he is not. Note in that video above where he's absolutely LEVELLED (as in, nearly turned upside down) by a hit that connects just as he releases his vicious wrister. Notice that he seems to bounce back up, as if made of rubber, after it.

Also notice that he's not scared of giving as good as he gets (sometimes too much, as when he foolishly speared Canada's Travis Konecny at the World Juniors this year and was quickly thrown out as a result.

This is a player, after all, that has had to work his way up through the hockey ranks with a chip on his shoulder. He's had to stick up for himself like the runt of the litter always has to fight hardest for the scraps.

There's a reason that they say the smallest animals are often the most vicious. DeBrincat personifies that-he may be 5'7 off the ice, but on it he often plays as if he's 6'3 and 50lbs heavier in his willingness to go to the net. Look at that second goal in the video, for example - he's on the doorstep, digging away and taking punishment with the best of them.

His chemistry with linemates is unmistakable, too. A lot of this is because he loves to have the puck, loves to pass and receive it and get other players involved in a buccaneering rush up the ice. He's a player who will bring fans out of their seats the moment he receives the puck with a little open ice and space to skate into it, or if he receives the puck in a high-percentage scoring area.

But in a traditionalist NHL, that size spectre will still be a black mark against the little Michiganite. It's already seen him slide inexorably down the draft boards. As one scout said "if this kid was 5'11, he'd be in the top 10 for sure".

As it happens, DeBrincat is ranked by most scouting services in the lower end of the first round (Central Scouting, for example, have him 21st among NA skaters. ISS have him 25th.

However, there is an argument that DeBrincat could even fall out of the first round - right into the jaws of the Bruins with the 32nd pick.

If he does, they would be a fool not to snap up the kind of goalscorer who only comes along once in a decade. Alex DeBrincat is that rare player who you only need to get the puck for a second in open space to see magic happen. He will never be among the NHL's physical forces, but he's a lethal goalscorer who is more than capable of holding his own in physical battles despite his relatively small size and loves to get under the opposition's skin.

Does that sound familiar, Boston?

The Bruins (or indeed any team that drafts him) could have Brad Marchand 2.0 fall into their laps with DeBrincat - only Brad Marchand with talents skewed even more towards goalscoring.

Even more than that, Alex DeBrincat, on ice, could be America's version of Theo Fleury - the lethal goalscorer passed over by many because of his size and playing with a chip on his shoulder as a result.

Fleury was taken 166th. Alex DeBrincat won't last that long, for sure.

But if he's still around with the 20th pick, the Bruins should take a long look. If he's still around at the 32nd, then it would be folly not to draft one of the most lethal American snipers in a generation.