Photo by Maggie Avila
It is surprising that a rookie in the NHL would fit in perfectly on the number one line of a Stanley Cup contending team like the Chicago Blackhawks. Then again we are not talking any rookie, we are talking Brandon Saad.
The scouting report on Brandon coming out of the Saginaw Spirits of the OHL was that he was a responsible two way player with the potential to be a top six power forward. Good size and good hockey IQ are mentioned often in association with Saad and Blackhawks fans are now seeing why.
Brandon Saad is getting the opportunity that most rookies would only dare to dream of. He is playing on the top line with Captain Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa and has not looked out of step at all. Up until now his stats on the Blackhawks do not indicate the level of his play.
He has been working extremely hard to create chances for his line and himself. Saad is very good with winning puck battles in corners and along the boards and in opening up ice with his deceptive speed. These things are not captured by the stat sheets but impact games none the less.
He was finally rewarded the other day with his first NHL goal against the San Jose Sharks. He was stationed in front of the goals which is where he needs to get to if he can with his 6’2” frame he will get a lot of chances there.
The media and some fans are pleasantly surprised with how well Saad has made the transition to the NHL and his keeping pace with Toews and Hossa and not being awestruck by just playing with those caliber players.
For anyone that saw Saad in the Blackhawks prospect camp it is not surprising at all. He carries himself with a poise and quiet confidence that is way beyond his years. In that regard he reminds you of his linemate Jonathan Toews. There is a maturity and calmness that Saad has both off and on the ice with the puck.
He also is similar to fellow linemate Marian Hossa in that he is a dependable two way player and physically solid. Saad is very defensively responsible and rarely puts himself or his team in bad positions. His hockey intelligence and puck anticipation is way beyond his age.
In prospect camp, all eyes were curious as to what new prospect Teuvo Teravainen was like and were in awe of his offensive skills, rightfully so. Equally impressive though was Saad. One could tell Saad was the most NHL ready as he could not be moved off the puck. He is solid in his skates and has great speed and balance. He is a physical specimen of hockey player.
During the lockout Saad played in Rockford on the Icehogs. He tallied 8 goals and 12 helpers in 31 games.
The only knock on Saad has been consistency but that is the case with most young hockey players and on the Blackhawks that has not been the case. He has played very consistently so much so Coach Quenneville has given him a turn on the power play.
It certainly doesn’t hurt Saad’s development being paired with probably the two best two way forwards in the NHL but credit Saad with taking advantage of his opportunity. The Blackhawks are impressed with what they have seen and will be keeping the rookie up with the big club and he will not be returning to Rockford.
It will be interesting to see what the Blackhawks do when Daniel Carcillo returns from injury. It is one of those good problems to have. No matter what line Saad plays on I for one am very happy he will remain on the Blackhawks roster. I also have to believe the Blackhawks are even happier at how Brandon Saad is developing and helping this team along the way. Congradulations Brandon keep playing your game.