WINDSOR, Ont. — Alex DeBrincat has been told more than once he's too small to succeed.
It's a major reason why the 19-year-old waited so long to hear his named called at the 2016 NHL Draft, despite scoring 51 goals and 104 points in the year leading up to it.
"I think a lot of teams were worried if I could still do it at the next level," DeBrincat said about dropping to the second round.
"In my mind I can and hopefully I will for a long time."
With some extra motivation, DeBrincat exceeded his draft-year numbers by a wide margin in 2016-17 and on Saturday was named Canadian Hockey League player of the year after producing 65 goals and 127 points in 63 games with the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters.
"Feels good, (but) coming into the season we had a bigger goal in mind," said DeBrincat. "Wasn't really about me putting points or goals, more of a team thing."
The Chicago Blackhawks selected DeBrincat in 2016 with their first pick, 39th overall. A total of 26 teams overlooked him and 12 passed over twice.
The Farmington Hills, Mich., native is listed at five-foot-seven and 170 pounds, which falls well below the average size hockey player. But his stature hasn't negatively impacted his play on the ice in three seasons with Erie. And a common trend recently in the NHL is smaller players finding success, like last year's CHL player of the year Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"It's tough for me to say, you have to ask all the general managers. I think a lot of people are worried about my size but Chicago believes in me," said DeBrincat. "I was their first pick and I'm so lucky to go to a great organization."
DeBrincat became the highest-scoring American born player in OHL history this year, but was still left off the U.S. world junior team.
He also became just the second player in OHL history, and first in 40 years, to record three straight 50-goal seasons.
The natural goal scorer has 167 goals and 332 points in just 191 career junior games. Playing with quality linemates has helped DeBrincat, but the winger says that his key to scoring is to not get rattled when things aren't clicking.
"You have to stay composed, (good goaltending) is something you'll run into, can't get frustrated, rare that a goalie has a perfect game."
Brandon Wheat Kings captain Nolan Patrick, who is listed No. 1 in NHL central scouting's final rankings for June's draft, was named top CHL prospect on Saturday.
No. 2 on central scouting's list Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads won rookie of the year.
Senators prospect Thomas Chabot of the Saint John Sea Dogs earned defenceman of the year.
Canadiens prospect Michael McNiven of Owen Sound was named goaltender of the year, and Attack bench boss Ryan McGill won coach of the year.
DeBrincat has two goals and nine points in four games to help Erie reach the final at the 2017 Memorial Cup.
His Otters will face the host Windsor Spitfires on Sunday in the Memorial Cup championship. It'll be the last junior game in the careers of some players, including most likely DeBrincat, who is itching to crack the pros next season.
"They want me to be in the NHL as bad as I want to be there," said DeBrincat. "I think they know what I can do and I know what I can do."
Kyle Cicerella, The Canadian Press